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Trump Tax Return Revealed; Chinese Premier Annual Press Conference; Polls Open Soon in Dutch Parliamentary Elections; Erdogan Blames Netherlands for Bosnia Massacre; Europe's Top Court: Employers Can Ban Headscarves. Aired 12-1a ET

Aired March 15, 2017 - 00:00   ET



[00:00:10] JOHN VAUSE, CNN ANCHOR: This CNN NEWSROOM live from Los Angeles. Ahead this hour --

ISHA SESAY, CNN ANCHOR: Never before revealed information on President Trump's taxes, but who leaked the return and why is it coming out now?

VAUSE: The Netherlands decides a key test for popular support in Europe as Dutch voters go to the polls in a few hours from now.

SESAY: And Snoop Dogg under fire for mock shooting of a Donald Trump clown in a new music video.

VAUSE: Hello and welcome to our viewers all around the world. Great to have you with us. I'm John Vause.

SESAY: And I'm Isha Sesay. NEWSROOM L.A. starts right now.

VAUSE: After months of steadfast refusals by Donald Trump to release his tax returns, we now have his tax information for one year. The White House says the President earned more than $150 million in 2005, paid $38 million in taxes. The return shows he wrote off $100 million in losses which reduced the amount he had to pay.

SESAY: The White House released the details just ahead of the tax forms disclosure on MSNBC. Throughout the campaign you may remember that Mr. Trump refused to release his returns, saying they were under audit. Later one of his top aides said he is not going to release them at all since he won the election.

VAUSE: Well, joining us here now in Los Angeles Democratic strategist Dave Jacobson and Republican consultant John Thomas. Also with us CNN's senior reporter for media and politics Dylan Byers. Good to have you all with us.

SESAY: Welcome everyone.

VAUSE: Ok. So John -- first to you. The breaking news here is that a rich guy made a lot of money and then paid a pretty decent amount of taxes on it at a rate of around 25 percent, which is actually more than President Obama paid in 2015. His effective tax rate was 19.6 percent.

JOHN THOMAS, REPUBLICAN CONSULTANT: And more than Bernie Sanders I think at 13 or 14 percent and more than a lot of corporations. I mean look, I don't know if the President's audit is over, but clearly he had reasons that he didn't want to release it before.

And guess what? He pays taxes. It's amazing, like every other American. I think we just need to go back and say maybe I'm sorry?

SESAY: Listen, before we get any further on down this road because you're gloating practically.

VAUSE: One year -- still a lot of years to come.


THOMAS: And undoubtedly as a real estate developer, he has had years where he paid less taxes and more taxes depending upon his business.

SESAY: Ok. Let's read the White House statement because they effectively killed the story before MSNBC released the details.

And this is what they said, "Mr. Trump paid $38 million even after taking into account large scale depreciation for construction on an income of more than $150 million, as well as paying tens of millions of dollars in other taxes such as sales and excise taxes and employment taxes. And this illegally published return proves just that. Despite the substantial income figure in tax paid, it is totally illegal to steal and publish tax returns.

The dishonest media can continue to make this part of their agenda while the President will focus on his, which includes tax reform that will benefit all Americans."

Dave, is this story dead on arrival?

DAVE JACOBSON, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Not necessarily. I think it could potentially be the tip of the iceberg, right? And I think the fact that the White House proactively had this sort of knee-jerk reaction after they saw Rachel Maddow, the host of MSNBC that ran the story earlier, after they saw the tweet, they proactively went out, jumped the gun and issued the statement.

And I think it really undermines their argument, right. They've been saying this whole time throughout the course of the campaign oh, the President's under audit by the IRS. Well, clearly they're not if they're going to jump the gun and issue this statement.

I think it's going to raise real questions at the podium tomorrow for press secretary Sean Spicer on like why they're hiding the other tax returns and whether or not there is any real information that we can get in the weeks and months ahead in terms of other years, other tax returns.

And what's exactly like under audit? Like is it one year? Or is it like a decade? Like -- what is it? VAUSE: Ok. Dylan to you -- in terms of how this story was reported

by MSNBC, as Dave mentioned, it all started with the tweet from their main anchor, Rachel Maddow. She tweeted this "We've got Trump tax returns, tonight 9:00 p.m. Eastern MSNBC. Seriously."

That tweet went out at 7:36 p.m. Eastern time. There was a countdown clock on the network leading up to the big reveal. Maddow then spent about 17 minutes posing some very good questions. We had a commercial break, and then finally we got to this moment.


RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: What I have here is a copy of Donald Trump's tax returns. We have his federal tax return for one year for 2005. I believe this is the only set of the President's federal taxes that reporters have ever gotten a-hold of. What we have are these two pages, front and back.


VAUSE: Dylan, it seems the only problem here is that Rachel Maddow actually did not have the tax returns. She had a summary of two pages. And they did not answer any of the questions which she posed in the lead-up.

[00:05:00] DYLAN BYERS, CNN SENIOR REPORTER FOR MEDIA AND POLITICS: Right. That's absolutely right. And look, I would agree with Dave when I said that this could indeed be the tip of the iceberg.

But the way that it was handled by MSNBC, you know, frankly was a little bit irresponsible. Because what it ended up doing is it ended up giving -- it disappointed first of all everyone who thought that Rachel Maddow had found the sort of Holy Grail of research on Trump.

It also gave fodder to Republicans to go after legitimate inquiries by the media into Trump's tax returns. I mean, all you have to do is look at a tweet from Hillary Clinton's campaign press secretary after Rachel Maddow announced that she had this breaking news when he said this is the Holy Grail. And then his tweet after she actually revealed what she had and he said look, Democrats shouldn't get distracted by two pages of tax documents. They should back to focus things on other more significant questions.

I mean look, having the tax documents is a good thing. Releasing them, showing them to the public is a good thing for journalists to do. What's not good is to hype this up so much that it becomes a huge distraction when you don't actually have the goods. And that is the mistake that MSNBC and Rachel Maddow made tonight.

SESAY: Dylan, staying with you -- the issue how they came to get them, I know it came by journalist David Cay Johnston. The fact that as he pointed out they appeared it was effectively a leak. What do you make of that and the timing here?

BYERS: Well, the timing is beneficial to Donald Trump. And that's other thing I should mention is that this is ultimately as even CNBC, the sister network to MSNBC, said this is ultimately a victory for Trump handed to Trump by Rachel Maddow. I think the Trump folks are celebrating.

And I think look, David Cay Johnston, the journalist who got these two pages acknowledged that these could very well have come from Trump himself. Because at the end of the day, they distract from all of the other important issues out there that we should be talking about. And they actually show at least one year in which he did pay taxes. And as you said, a tax rate that was higher than that of President Obama's in 2015.

VAUSE: Ok, well, after the show went away, Donald Trump Jr. tweeted this out. "Thank you, Rachel Maddow for proving to your Trump-hating followers how successful Donald Trump is and that he paid $40 million in taxes."

And to Dylan's point, Dave, did MSNBC and Rachel Maddow do a huge favor for Donald Trump? Because, you know, we're now talking about his taxes. We're not talking about the Obamacare replacement which is riddled with holes. We're not talking about Russia. We're not talking about surveillance or wiretapping.

JACOBSON: I think from the Democrats' perspective, it's really like how they frame the narrative here. Donald Trump talks about how in his plan that he released that wanted to do away with the alternative minimum tax -- that's $31 million that he paid in 2005. At a time when he is pushing this health care plan where he wants to gut Medicare coverage from seniors, from poor people who depend on the Affordable Care Act.

So you've got this sort of juxtaposition where you've got this guy. Yes, he did pay $31 million in tax. But if he had it his way, that tax would cease to exist at the same time where he wants to gut services and slash funding for critical health care services that people's lives depend on.

So I think from a Democrat's perspective, it's really how they argue this narrative moving forward.

SESAY: Well, one thing John has said, they're going to argue is this narrative of being under siege by the media.

THOMAS: And that's the problem is it just feeds into the victim that the Trump campaign wants to play. And yes, it's a big score.

First of all, Trump paid lots of taxes. He'll probably always pay lots of tax, but he also makes lots of money. I don't think Trump is just trying to give himself tax breaks. He's going to have a lot of money at the end of that --

JACOBSON: That's fine. But I would also argue that the tax issue isn't a good issue for Donald Trump because as he looks to 2020, for example, states like California that are really important in a presidential race -- it's the largest state of the union, they have actually got legislation going through the legislature right now that will ensure that anybody who wants to be on the ballot to run for president in California actually has to disclose their tax returns. So this isn't necessarily a good issue for him.

VAUSE: Ok. Quickly do you think Trump released it? Did he leak it?


VAUSE: Ok. Good.

Ok. Now later in the show, Maddow explained one of the most important angles to this story. This came really late in the hour. Listen to this.


MADDOW: The story here to me is, a, that we have obtained this. B, that this stuff is obtainable.


MADDOW: There has been a lot of interesting reporting recently on how, if you work at the IRS, it is not likely that you would be able to see a return --


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Tax returns are put in a special vault in the commissioner's office.


MADDOW: Versions of his tax returns have ended up all sorts of places whether it's in casino (inaudible) application, personal applications of any kind. And for some reason somebody who had access to this one wanted it to be known. I believe this will not be the end of that.


VAUSE: So Dylan, you know, how significant is Rachel Maddow's take on all of this that, you know, the actual tax return itself is not (inaudible) released, but the fact that it was leaked to the media is what is important here.

[00:10:04] BYERS: Well, I think that's the argument that both she and others at MSNBC and NBC will make in terms of why this report was worth hyping up and why it was so effective. And that's, look, this proves that this information can be released. It obviously should be released.

I don't think anyone can stand on solid ground and argue that Donald Trump's tax returns aren't relevant to the American people. I think the problem here is that that was not the context in which the network set up this big reveal. They sort of set it up as if they had the goods.

And the problem there, to go back to this question about the sort of anti-media narrative and the media barrage, I watched Sean Hannity's program which came on immediately after Rachel Maddow's -- his program, of course, on Fox News. And they went to town on the media. Look, they do that every night. But it's hard not to argue that Rachel Maddow and NBC didn't give them quite a bit of fodder with which to do that.

VAUSE: Yes. Hannity called it an NBC jihad against the President.

THOMAS: And Rachel was encouraging theft in that comment. If Trump doesn't want to release his returns, fine, let the American people decide. And they did that that wasn't their top priority. She is basically if you want something, go get it.

VAUSE: She argued under the first amendment that they have a right to publish this stuff.

SESAY: The question is can President Trump stay off Twitter in light of this? Is Rachel Maddow now his new target?

THOMAS: I think there is going to be some bragging going on the next couple of day.

SESAY: Dave?

JACOBSON: I don't know. I mean you never know with this President. The reality is he could tweet something at 6:00 in the morning that there's aliens coming in from Jupiter approaching our atmosphere. Who knows with Donald Trump?

VAUSE: We'll see. Ok.

SESAY: Gentlemen -- a pleasure.

VAUSE: Thank you for joining us. And Dylan as well.

SESAY: Thank you. Thank you very much.

VAUSE: Thank you, all.

Ok. Chinese premier Li Keqiang wrapped up his annual news conference just a short time ago. It's the only time of the year he takes questions from reporters. One of them right is Matt Rivers, standing by.

SESAY: Yes. Well ties with the U.S. were a central theme. He said he hoped to avoid a trade war by strengthening the dialogue between the two countries.

VAUSE: Let's go out to Matt Rivers. We know he's ready. He is standing there in the live shot location in the Beijing bureau.

So Matt -- we had some very positive comments coming from Premier Li on the issue of U.S.-China relations.

MASTT RIVERS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, we did. We called this a press conference in name only as you know, guys, because these are all pre- arranged questions. His answers are certainly scripted out. This is not the kind of free-flowing press conference where the person taking the questions has no idea what's coming. This is all very much pageantry that goes in line with this annual political event here in China.

But Li Keqiang does do it every year. And what he talked about this year was U.S.-China relations. And he has continued the line that we've heard from the Chinese government ever since Donald Trump was elected, and that is there is more to be gained by a positive relationship between China and the U.S. than could be in any other situation.

He said that there is a special relationship, that the trade between two countries is very strong, that they have interdependent economies, and that both sides have an interest in making sure that nothing like a trade war ever happens, that both sides have an interest in making sure that globalization and free trade continues, which is a little bit in contrast to what you've heard from the President in terms of walking back from some of those free trade agreements.

But the long and short of it is that Premier Li Keqiang got up there in front of reporters and said we want the U.S. to be our friend, and we're going to do what it takes to make sure that happens.

VAUSE: Very quickly, is there any more significance to what the (AUDIO GAP) there is a meeting next month between Presidents Trump and Xi (AUDIO GAP)?

RIVERS: I think absolutely there is some more significance because this is laying the groundwork for that upcoming meeting; not only this press conference setting the tone, but also Secretary of State Rex Tillerson is in the region. He will be here in Beijing on Saturday. So all of that laying the groundwork for what will be a very, very important first meeting between President Trump and President Xi if it moves forward.

VAUSE: Matt Rivers live this hour, 12:13 in Beijing. Thanks -- Matt.

SESAY: The polls open in a little over two hours in the Netherlands for an election that will test the country's tradition of tolerance and its future in the European Union. Far right leader Geert Wilders is promising to stop immigration from Muslim countries and close mosques.

VAUSE: Even if Wilders' party wins the most seats in parliament, he probably won't take power from the current prime minister. Mark Rutte is seeking a third term. He has a better chance of forming a coalition government.


MARK RUTTE, DUTCH PRIME MINISTER (through translator): In 2015, the Netherlands faced a very big problem -- a big migrant flow into the Netherlands of Syrian refugees. At the end of last year I succeeded to reach agreements.

[00:15:03] We've reached one with the Balkans, and the Balkans are now closed. We reached an agreement with Greece, and now Greece is closed. We also reached an agreement with Turkey, resulting in the number of Syrian refugees decreasing by more than 95 percent.

GEERT WILDERS, DUTCH PARTY FOR FREEDOM (through translator): The Netherlands is not for everyone. Netherlands is for the Dutch. Do you hear me well? People who have chosen 10 percent for our country, your party, they make sure that people feel like foreigners in their own country, second class citizens. That's why they don't vote for your party anymore. The people do not want this.


SESAY: We'll have more coverage of the polls opening shortly.

And Turkey's president is firing another verbal shot at the Netherlands in the deepening diplomatic rift between the countries. Recep Tayyip Erdogan blamed the Dutch for failing to prevent the 1995 massacre in Srebrenica.

VAUSE: 8,000 Bosnian Muslims were killed when Bosnian-Serb forces overran the town. Dutch peacekeepers were on the ground at the time.


RECEP TAYYIP ERDOGAN, TURKEY'S PRESIDENT (through translator): Even in battle, no one can open fire on medics. Actually, if you are Dutch, you can. We know the Netherlands and the Dutch from the Srebrenica massacre. We are familiar with how their morality and character is corrupted, how they have massacred 8,000 Bosnians there. Nobody can give us civilization lessons.


VAUSE: And over the weekend, Mr. Erdogan compared the Dutch government to Nazis. The Dutch prime minister says he has had enough.


RUTTE (through translator): This is a disgusting falsification of history. Erdogan's tone is getting more hysterical not just regarding the Netherlands, but also regarding Germany. We will not lower ourselves to this level.

We're also being confronted with idiotic and bizarre fact of Turkey imposing sanctions on the Netherlands. While it is the Netherlands should be extremely angry about the threats Turkey expressed on Saturday morning. And what happened on Saturday afternoon and evening with the Turkish minister who traveled here from Germany and the chaos that caused. This is unacceptable.


SESAY: Well, Turkey has refused to let the Dutch ambassador back into the country and suspended high level diplomatic relations with the Netherlands.

VAUSE: A short break. When we come back, a landmark ruling from Europe's top court could make an expression of faith in the workplace a fireable offense. More details in a moment.

SESAY: Plus controversy over new -- music video rather, by rapper Snoop Dogg. Why one Republican senator says it sends a dangerous message.


SESAY: Europe's highest court has ruled that employers can ban workers from wearing head scarves.

VAUSE: The European court of justice says it's ok for companies to ban any visible political, philosophical or religious signs. Many rights groups and religious leaders call it discrimination.

[00:20:09] SESAY: Edina Lekovic joins us now. She's communications director of the Muslim Public Affairs Council. Edina -- it's good to have you with us again.


SESAY: (AUDIO GAP) decision by the European court of justice exposes a double standard in the European law. How so?

LEKOVICH: Well, it's out of line with other rulings that have happened in European courts. But let's back up. I think that it's important that this -- that we realize that this is - it's the wrong approach to a problem.

If we're talking about integration, we need to create opportunities for inclusion, not exclusion. I think that that's exactly what this ruling gets wrong. And it's out of sync with a European court of human rights ruling a couple of years ago, which I want to get this right, said sometimes an employee's right is to manifest freedom of religion.

And so there is this contradiction, this gap between these two European courts. And I think that it exposes the way that many of these decisions are becoming more and more political for obvious reasons.

VAUSE: There is a shift under way in Europe where they are sort of leaning towards the secular. So part of the case before this European court involved a Muslim woman in Belgium. She's a receptionist. She asked her employer if she could wear a head scarf. The company said no, they then (AUDIO GAP) which was religious in nature.

The court said this is ok. And this is what they said. "Because the rule thus treats all employees of the undertaking in the same way, notably by requiring them, generally and without differentiation, to dress neutrally."

So on the surface that would seem to be quite there, one gets treated the same. But you know, Christians compared to say Jewish men and Muslim women, they don't have the same obligations to display their faith -- right. So this isn't quite fair -- LEKOVIC: They do and they don't. I mean every faith has its forms of

religious practice. Some of those are more liberal, some of those are more what we might consider orthodox. And you know, and I consider my own situation -- I see women who are wearing (inaudible) and I cringe a little bit as a Muslim because they certainly reflect my understanding of Islam. But that's that woman's understanding of Islam and that's the kind of diversity that we're trying to negotiate in our societies.

But there's, again a contradiction because European courts have also allowed for women to wear crucifixes whether it's in corporate settings or educational settings. And so it just -- this gives further fuel to the idea that this is targeting Muslims.

I mean Muslims are being disproportionately targeted at a time when, again if we want to create integration we have to create opportunities for inclusion where people can see the intersection between their faiths and their civic identity and their citizenship.

There's a different way to go about this where Europe can benefit and appreciate its European -- its Muslim immigrants.

SESAY: So that being said, effectively where we're at is Muslim women being asked to choose, effectively between their faith and their employment. But what will they choose?

LEKOVICH: Well, I think that when we put people's identity on the line, we're creating a false choice. First of all, we're saying to them, you can either be a Muslim woman who covers her hair or you can be a professional woman. That's a false choice. You can be a professional Muslim woman.

And as an American-Muslim woman, I know this today, I'm once again grateful that my country's laws value religious freedom and that our laws are set up to protect different forms of expression. Nobody should be proselytizing, nobody should be, you know, pushing their faiths out in any of these settings but to simply reflect your own identity in the way that you feel comfortable I think should be something that we all agree on.

VAUSE: You mentioned the difference here between the United States and Europe because in the U.S. there's a strong bias towards, you know, freedom of religion. In Europe though there's always been this sort of bias towards freedom from religion. So right now that freedom from religion in Europe seems to be clashing with the surge of Muslim immigration.

LEKOVIC: It sure does. But I think that this is -- I don't think it's actually about religion in most cases. I think we're talking about immigration. We're talking about who is seen as being a foreigner versus being a native. This is something that we're seeing in the United States with the white nationalist movement as it's being called.

So we're seeing this rise in many countries and I think that many of these European countries are going to have to grapple with immigration in different ways. Here we have, in the U.S. the valued idea of being a melting pot, that we take in immigrants and this is what we're fighting for today under the current administration, how to retain those rights and freedoms. And I think that Europe in some ways sends us a warning signal of going down a path that disenfranchises people again instead of creating opportunities for them to be integrated.

They came to this country because they want better lives so we should be creating paths where they get better lives and society to introduce (ph) as a whole.

[00:24:56] SESAY: Yes. And to that point of warning signals, the European court making this decision, you know, some have said is a warning signal that they're pivoting away from protecting minority rights. What is your sense of where this road takes us?

LEKOVIC: I think that it's very disappointing that Central European values, just like Central American values are about inclusion and about space for multiple people -- these ideas, these ideals have continued to evolve. Europe today, European nations today need to look deeply at their national character.

My parents left Yugoslavia. They lived in Austria for eight years. They realized they were never going to be accepted as truly being Austrians and so they decided to reinvent their lives again by becoming Americans because they knew that here they could become Americans.

That's something that we're still striving for certainly. But I think that many European countries need to evolve to create space for others in ways that are different than they have in the past.

VAUSE: It seems that they were moving in that direction in the last couple of years.


LEKOVIC: Yes. And I pray for the best in the Netherlands tomorrow because I think that we -- democracy is on the line here. There is nothing less than democracy on the line and the western ideals that so many of us cherish.

VAUSE: Edina -- good to see you.

SESAY: As always good to speak to you. Thank you.

LEKOVIC: Thank you.

VAUSE: We're taking a short break.

When we come back, the Syrian civil entering into its seventh year. Up next, the challenges human rights groups say they're still facing.


VAUSE: Welcome back everybody. You're watching CNN NEWSROOM live from Los Angeles. I'm John Vause. SESAY: And I'm Isha Sesay.

The headlines this hour.

U.S. President Donald Trump's tax returns from 2005 are now public, at least some details from them. The White House says he earned more than $150 million in 2005 and paid $38 million in taxes. The return shows he wrote off $100 million in business losses.

[00:30:11] The White House Statement came just ahead of an MSNBC report on the filing.

JOHN VAUSE, CNN ANCHOR: The White House says President Trump believes he will be vindicated in his claim that former President Obama wiretapped him at Trump Tower. Meantime, a senior Democratic senator says FBI Director James Comey will tell into the coming days if the FBI is investigating ties between the Trump campaign and Russia.

SESAY: Polls open in just about two hours in the Netherlands as voters pick a new parliament. Even if Geert Wilders far-right party wins the most seat, he's unlikely to be able to form a collision government. His main opponent is the current Prime Minister Mark Rutte.

VAUSE: South Korean prosecutors have ordered ousted leader Park Geun- hye to end the questions next week about the corruption scandal which led to her impeachment. She denies any wrongdoing and says the truth will come out.

SESAY: Well, Wednesday is the 6th year anniversary of Syria's brutal civil war. What started as political protest turned into a multinational battleground. More than 300,000 people had been killed so far including many women and children. Russia tells that the power balance in favor of the Syrian regime and in the process Syria, Russia and other fighting groups had been accuse of war crimes and crimes against humanity.

VAUSE: Peace talks and U.N. resolutions have come and gone. And as the war ended its 7th year, the U.N. says half of Syria's population needs urgent humanitarian assistance.

SESAY: Well, Sahma Hadid joins us from Beirut, Lebanon. She is a deputy director of campaigns in the Middle East for Amnesty International.

Sahma, thank you so much for joining us.

This conflict to hit the 6th year mark, give us some perspective on the humanitarian situation in the country at present.

SAHMA HADID, DEPUTY DIRECTOR OF CAMPAIGNS, AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL MIDDLE EAST: Well, as you've rightly mentioned, this conflict has impacted the Syrian population in significant ways. We're seeing close to five million refugees. Many five million refugees seek refuge outside of Syria. Close to millions of 13 million people internally displaced. And as you mentioned, more than 300,000 people have been killed by this conflict.

We have both sides committing war crimes and the Syrian government also accuse of committing crimes against humanity.

So this conflict on the population has been marked by violence. And six years on, it's time to end that cycle of violence. And in short, the accountability for victims can be a reality.

SESAY: Yes. I mean, efforts to secure a lasting peace continue, stopping and starting. But a few days ago, we've got word that aid group, Mercy group -- Mercy Corps, I should say -- had had its registration revoke by the Turkish government. We know they were doing significant work there in Syria.

Talk to us about the impact of this development on the already suffering civilians and just generally the situation when it comes to getting aide in Syria right now.

HADID: Well, it's absolutely essential for all aide groups as well as U.N. agencies to be given access into the hardest to reach areas and ensure that humanitarian aid is delivered. And there have been various U.N. resolutions and decisions by the U.N. Security Council ensuring that aid must be delivered.

However, it's up to the parties, to the conflict to respect that. But I think it's also important to reflect now six years on after the start of this crisis, underneath where accountability and justice for victims.

A lasting peace deal is absolutely essential. But what is also a crucial element of that is justice and accountability. And that's why Amnesty is calling for the need for accountability and for justice to become a reality for the Syrian population.

And to ensure that perpetrators of war crimes and crimes against humanity do not get away with their crimes and that these crimes do not go unpunished.

And so now there's a glimmer of hope, whilst there has been conflict for six years.

Last year, the U.N General Assembly voted to set up a new mechanism that would investigate crimes and this would lead to the prosecution in the future of perpetrators of war crimes in the Syrian conflict.

So we're calling on governments who voted for that to support this new U.N. mechanism, to investigate crimes in Syria. Ensure that it's fully-funded and ensure that the U.N. now sets it up and get on with the job of making justice a reality.

I think there's also another opportunity for justice in Syria with governments now pursuing cases of prosecution of perpetrators of war crimes.

[00:35:00] So I think what we need to see moving forward is obviously a lasting peace deal, one that includes justice so that we can prevent atrocities from being committed in the future.

SESAY: Sahma Hadid, thank you so much for joining us from Beirut, Lebanon. We appreciate the insight. And of course, our hopes and prayers with everyone in Syria right now and the hope there will be lasting peace and accountability.

Thank you so much.

HADID: Thank you.

VAUSE: And we'll take another break. When we come back, Snoop Dogg releases a controversial new music video and Donald Trump's personal lawyer says the rapper owes the president an apology.


VAUSE: Well, the rapper Snoop Dogg is getting a lot of criticism over his new music video which shows a mock execution of kind of U.S. President Donald Trump.

Take a look.




SESAY: Well, that clown dressed as Mr. Trump has been dubbed Ronald Clump. The video features hot-button topics like police shootings and immigration.

Well, Segun Oduolowu joins us now. He's an entertainment journalist and a contributor to "Access Hollywood Live."

Segun, always good to have you with us.


SESAY: Good to have you in the house.

So Snoop Dogg is close to telling "Billboard" magazine that this was just the case of art. He's just making art.

Are you buying that?

ODUOLOWU: Unfortunately, I can't. I feel it's a bridge too far. And what I mean by that is, I am all -- I'm a fan of Snoop. I'm a fan of hip hop music. But Snoop isn't really this kind of a rapper that makes political statements.

He's not a Jay-Z. He's not a Kanye West.

SESAY: Kendrick Lamar.

ODUOLOWU: A Kendrick Lamar. If we're going to -- even Ice Cube we're talking about West Coast rappers. And when you pull a gun on a mock president of the United States Donald Trump, there has to be some respect for the office of the presidency. You may not like his politics. You may not like his cabinet. You might not like any he stands for, but respect the office.

And the flipside is, let's take two similar size stars. So let's say it was Garth Brooks, country music being predominantly white; hip hop being predominantly. People of color.

If Garth Brooks did a video where he was shooting Barack Obama, I'd be out there leading the charge and burning Garth Brook records. So I think that in this case, the artist, as a critic, I'm not a fan of this.

VAUSE: Well, you know, a lot of people upset. That includes the Republican senator Marco Rubio. He's unhappy with the video.

This is what he said.


SEN. MARCO RUBIO, (R) FLORIDA: Well, again, I think people can disagree on policy. We've got to be very careful with that kind of thing because the wrong person sees that and gets the wrong idea and you can have a real problem. So, you know -- I'm not sure what Snoop was thinking. He should think about that a little bit, you know.

[00:40:00] VAUSE: OK. So shooting a Trump clown with a pretend gun that goes bang, could that really be motivation for, you know, an assassination here or is this kind of a criticism too far.

ODUOLOWU: Well, I mean, lightning is going to strike me as soon as I step on this end because I'm going to agree a little bit with Marco Rubio and I'd never thought I'd say that. But they just had an intruder at the White House.

So if life does imitate art, it is a possibility. And you don't want to put yourself, if you are Snoop Dogg, if you are any musician.

I don't think Snoop has to apologize. I don't believe he should apologize. I feel that, hey, you're an artist, you stand by what you put out there, but once you put it out there, you allow people to critic it. And the critic that he's getting, I feel in this case is justified.

Respect the office of the presidency. I mean, as Michelle Obama used to say, "When they go low, we go high." I would think Snoop can appreciate that slogan more than anyone.

SESAY: Yes. You know, we talked about --


ODUOLOWU: You didn't get the high.


SESAY: No, I got it. I got it.



So, Snoop Dogg and the Marco Rubio statement of, you know, it could lead to, you know, assassination attempts, that to the side, you see kind of giving cover to other artist to do this kind of thing. Because he's an elder, you know, hip hop statesman.


SESAY: Do we accept more of this kind of thing now that something like Snoop has kind of set the ball rolling.

ODUOLOWU: I think you will see it done in a more clever way. I think that this wasn't clever. And that's also the part that should be bothersome to a lot of people.

In that video, he had a depiction of a routine police stop, and you know the cop shooting the driver and showing insights into what has happened to black motorist.

There were very good points in that video that could have stood on their own. The Trump thing undercut all of it.

So I think artist will look at this now and be more creative. You can do all kinds -- you could stump "Cheetos," because he's orange all the time. You can do whatever you want to do to be creative. This was overtly antagonistic. And I wasn't -- I was surprise that it came from Snoop.

Again, his music is more fun and party and have a good time. And there's nothing good time about toy guns being pointed at a president.

VAUSE: OK. You said that Snoop should not apologize for this.

ODUOLOWU: No, not at all.

VAUSE: But Trump's personal lawyer thinks differently.


MICHAEL COHEN, DONALD TRUMP'S PERSONAL LAWYER: It's totally disgraceful. Snoop owes the president an apology. There's absolutely nothing funny about an assassination attempt on a president. And I'm shock that he's -- I'm really shock about that because I thought he was better than that.

And certainly, I would not have accepted it if it was President Obama. I'll certainly don't accept it as President Trump. And in all fairness, it's not funny, it's not artistic.


ODUOLOWU: Yes. Those thing like crocodile (INAUDIBLE) from him.

VAUSE: He's very disappointed with that.

ODUOLOWU: Well, when Obama was giving speeches at colleges and kids were turning their backs on him or showing up with nooses and hanging fake Obama's effigy, I didn't see too many people from the right say this is terrible and oh my goodness, but you want a rapper to apologize to the president for what he did in a video.

We may not like it, we may think it's gone too far but I'm not about to ask an artist to apologize for what they consider art. I can tell them I don't like it. It is still America, after all.


ODUOLOWU: At least for now. At least for now.


VAUSE: Good to see you.

ODUOLOWU: No, thank you for having me.


SESAY: You can go high or low, whichever.


Thank you for watching CNN NEWSROOM live from Los Angeles. I'm Isha Sesay.

VAUSE: I'm John Vause. "World Sport" is up next. And then we will be back with another hour of news from all around the world. And you're watching CNN.