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Report: Trump Blames Assad for Chemical Weapons Attack; UN Ambassador Blasts Syria, Says Russia Must Step Up. Aired 3:30-4P ET

Aired April 5, 2017 - 15:30   ET



BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN ANCHOR: President Donald Trump has now reacted to one of the worst chemical bombings in history. It's important to show the photos but very disturbing to look. For the first time, the President is putting the blame directly on Syrian President Bashar Al Assad. Barrel bombs brimming with sarin gas, a nerve agent dropped from the skies killing dozens, including young children. They were gassed as they slept. Here was President Trump from the White House.


DONALD TRUMP, U.S. PRESIDENT: It's already happened that my attitude toward Syria and Assad has changed very much and if you look back over the last few weeks, there were other attacks using gas. You're now talking about a whole different level. So, as you know, I would love to have never been in the middle east. I would love to have never seen that whole, big situation start. But once it started, we got out the wrong way and ISIS formed in the vacuum and lots of bad things happened. I will tell you, what happened yesterday is unacceptable to me.


BALDWIN: Let me bring in a victim of the sarin gas attack in Syria in August of 2013. Kassem, thank you so much for being with me.


BALDWIN: Obviously, I want to get your reaction to President Trump's words but first, your story. You were there in 2013 when more than 1400 people were killed. What do you remember about that day?

[15:35:00] EID, I remember that day as if it were yesterday. I describe it as judgment day. It was around 5:00 a.m. when I heard, sirens coming from Damascus and rockets started hitting the ground. Seconds later, I lost my ability to breathe. I felt like my chest was set on fire, my eyes were burning and I wasn't even able to scream to alert my friends. After dozens of times beating my chest, I was able to take my first breath and it was a feeling of pain that I will never forget.

I started screaming in agony trying to wake up my friends and I was also hearing the neighbors screaming in the same way. I went to the street and I saw men, women and children running and falling on the ground and it's a scene that can only be described as judgment day. And I was trying to rescue a little boy and suddenly I lost my conscience and my heart stopped and doctors tried to give me CPR and they gave up on me and placed me between dead bodies. And I don't know, somehow one of my friends noticed I was still moving and called the doctors again and gave me more CPR and it was through all of that that they brought me back to life. I woke up to see bombing each and every corner of our town.

It wasn't a random attack. It was a massacre. I helped the United Nations and inspectors team to investigate the incident because of my English skills. I helped them with the reports and took them to the scenes and everything. But if I can say with all truth, that the most painful memory about that attack is watching President Obama failing to fulfill his promise about breaking the red line. When I was watching, him talking about making that deal with the Russians instead of Assad at least for once for committing this crime against humanity but he failed. He broke his promise and with a broken promise, he broke a lot of hearts in Syria and he made a lot of people give up on any kind of help coming from the international community.

He fueled the extremists with that broken promise because a lot of people saw that that was the end, that no matter what the hell Assad is going to do, nobody is going to stop him. Nobody is going to do anything. Just to punish him, just for once, he killed more than 500,000 people. He's displaced millions of people. And still -- he's still there in Damascus doing what he wants to do. And we saw what happened yesterday, the day before and since the beginning of the Syrian revolution in 2011, we rebelled against just like freedom of democracy that you have there, we were asking to build our country. If I may say a few words directly to President Trump if you'll give me a chance.

BALDWIN: Please.

EID: Mr. President, Mr. President, please, please in the name of every woman and child and elder who got killed by the Assad regime, please come in and help us. Don't make the same mistake that President Obama did. You criticized Obama for failing to punish an act when Assad crossed the red line. Now is the moment of truth. Now you should know the world that those days are over. We can't just keep living in these unprecedented crimes against humanity. We just can't keep living like this. I would personally love to come to the United States and meet you and tell you my personal story and give you a firsthand account about what's happened in Syria. I left the United States, I -- I came to the United States in 2014 and testified before the Senate and in front of the D.O.D.

I was on "60 minutes." I wrote articles in "The Wall Street Journal" in "The Washington Post" and foreign policy, think tanks and universities like Harvard and Yale. I was all over the country. I left the United States last year out of frustration, out of disappointment, not because of travel ban, not because of anything. Syrians didn't rebel to leave Syria. We rebel to stay in our country.

[15:40:00] We want to stay in our country and make our country a better place for all Syrians regardless of their ethnic or religious background. Please help us. Go after the man who created all of this mess. It's Bashar Al Assad. Don't make the same mistake President Obama did. Don't make Bashar Al Assad walk away. Give the people of Syria hope. Show them that the United States actually cares about human rights.

BALDWIN: Yes. Yes.

EID: It's not just words.

BALDWIN: Kassem, this is one of those times, I truly hope the President is watching cable news and hears your pleas of all people who would know, of all people who it sounds like you were castaway as dead until you moved, I just thank you so much for your bravery and your strength and your words. Thank you. Kassem Eid, thank you so much. Wow.

Let me just bring in Harvard professor, Nicholas Burns, he was the U.S. ambassador to NATO and served as under-secretary of state for political affairs. And also, advised Hillary Clinton's Presidential campaign. Mr. Ambassador, wow. I just didn't even want to jump in and interrupt him because his harrowing tale of suffering burns, living through that chemical attack in 2013, what did you make of that conversation?

NICHOLAS BURNS, FORMER U.S. AMBASSADOR TO NATO: You know, Brooke, like you, I thought it was a very powerful statement and I hope President Trump was listening because it really brings us to the heart of this problem, this civil war, this brutality and that is that Bashar Al Assad is a war criminal. We can bring him up on war crime charges, number one. Number two, the Trump administration will now I think not align itself with Russia and Syria against the Islamic State. How can we be in league with people with blood on their hands? Brooke, we've got to go back on the refugee issue. The greatest refugee crisis in the world today since 1945 is in Syria. 12 million homeless people out of a population of 22 million people and the President has frozen all refugee admittances and there's a huge refugee crisis in Iraq and Turkey and Lebanon and in Jordan. We've got to help. We are a country accustomed of taking in refugees safely and securely. I do think, brook, there are things that the President and administration can do to respond to this very powerful statement.

BALDWIN: What about quickly and finally, talked to so many incredibly smart people who know this thick and thin, such as yourself, and they say Assad will never leave. What do you say to that?

BURNS: I think he won't because his back is to the wall. This is a fierce ethnic conflict. I think Assad believes if he believes his family is killed, his compatriots are killed, we had a chance to take out Assad's air force. I wish President Obama had done that and now President Trump is responsible. He's going to have to decide how we'll react.

BALDWIN: Ambassador Burns, thank you so much. We'll be right back.

BURNS: Thank you.


BALDWIN: President Trump now defending Fox News Host Bill O'Reilly in the wake of sexual harassment and abuse allegations plaguing him. The President of the United States told "The New York Times", and I quote, "I think he's a person I know well. He's a good person, think he shouldn't have settled. Personally, I think he shouldn't have settled because you should have taken it all the way. I don't think Bill did anything wrong."

President Trump's defense of Bill O'Reilly comes as more than 30 companies have pulled their advertising from the O'Reilly Factor and The National Organization for Women is demanding Fox News fire him. Dylan Byers has been all over this. Why, oh why, do you think the President waded into this?

DYLAN BYERS, CNN SENIOR REPORTER FOR MEDIA AND POLITICS: Look, if you feel like you've been living through this movie before, you have. Nine months ago, one week before Roger Ailes was forced out of fox news amid his own sexual allegations, then candidate Trump came to his defense and said that he didn't think it was founded. And now we have the same thing going on here. On top of that, remember, this is coming from a guy who we have that infamous NBC "Access Hollywood" tape in which the now President made remarks that I think would qualify in most people's book as sexual harassment.

So, look, I think the reason Trump's coming to his defense is Trump has a lot of friends at Fox News. I think he counts bill O'Reilly among them. O'Reilly has been a staunch defender of Trump, even at times he's been hard on him but always has sort of come around to him. I think that Trump sees a kindred spirit there. So, he's coming to his defense. I don't know necessarily that that's good for Trump or for Bill O'Reilly but there you have it. Meanwhile, like you said, more than 30 advertisers pulling out of the show.

BALDWIN: Do you think, just quickly, when we talk about the financial ramifications of this with the advertisers and how this is becoming political now with President Trump weighing in, have you heard anything that this is a channel that's friendly to Republicans, have any other politicians stood up, either for or against Bill O'Reilly?

BYERS: No, you're not seeing -- you're not seeing any other politicians weighing in. You're also not seeing many journalists at Fox News weigh in.

[15:50:00] This is really what you're seeing right now is the advertisers and the affect that the advertisers have is somewhat limited for a number of reasons. One, they're only pulling out of Bill O'Reilly's show. Two, a lot of the revenue that fox news gets comes from its affiliates, subscriber fees rather than from the advertisers. And then look, the hardest challenge for fox news is the fact that Bill O'Reilly is, of course, the highest rated host on cable news. It might be harder to get rid of him than it was to get rid of Roger Ailes. So, for the moment, we'll see.

BALDWIN: Dylan, thank you.

BYERS: Thank you.

BALDWIN: Coming up next, breaking news in the southeast of this country. At least one tornado up to a mile and a half wide. We're tracking that storm. Details, next. Mile and a half wide. We're tracking that storm. Details, next.


[15:55:00] BALDWIN: Right now, millions of southerners are being threatened with storms packing damaging winds, flash floods and tornadoes. Forecasts to shut down play at the infamous Masters tournament. Of course, evacuated and closed until tomorrow. And this sample of the large hail that has fallen in parts of Alabama. State of emergency has been declared there. Tom Sater is on this in the CNN weather center. Where's the biggest threat for us now, Tom?

TOM SATER, CNN WEATHER ANCHOR: That's a big question, Brooke. Multiple states are now under a tornado watch. We're in spring season, severe weather season and today is different than most days. The storm's center, areas of low pressure around Missouri and that's a big engine of what's happening down south. A new tornado watch box was issued from across central Alabama and Tennessee including Louisville, Lexington, Nashville, Birmingham included. It's the one to the south that's really interesting.

The storm prediction center when they issued this watch in effect until 8:00 p.m. says it goes along with what we call a PDS, particularly dangerous situation. Only 1 percent of watches are given that. That means, and it's reserved only for these areas that could have violent tornadoes that are wide and stay on the ground for a long period of time. We had one large tornado south of Atlanta under Americus. Wide reports of damage there, and a few warnings right now south of Columbia, South Carolina, and a few south of Atlanta. But this is going to be going on until probably 11:00 tonight and then the threat will slip over to the Carolinas. A lot of water falling down with this, but the big story are the tornadoes that will be numerous as the hours roll on.

BALDWIN: My goodness. My parents are in Atlanta. My team is in Atlanta. I think they were told at some point today to stay away from the windows. Frightening, tom. Thank you so much.

SATER: Sure.

BALDWIN: Coming up next, President Trump publicly blames the Syrian President for the brutal gas attack that's killed dozens of people, many of them young children. CNN will take you to the hospital where some of the victims are being treated. We'll be right back.