Return to Transcripts main page


Syrian President Calls Accusations Against Him False; U.S. Drops "Mother of All Bombs" on ISIS in Afghanistan; Japan PM: North Korea May Be Preparing to Launch Missile; Trump Thanks 1st Responders to Atlanta I-85 Bridge Collapse; United Passenger's Attorney, Family Speak Out at News Conference. Aired 2:30-3p ET

Aired April 13, 2017 - 14:30   ET



[14:30:38] BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN ANCHOR: Syrian President Bashar al Assad, the man accused of launching the chemical attack on his own people, has just called the accusations against him 100 percent fabrication. Speaking on camera for the first time since that deadly chemical attack, Assad claimed the U.S. just need an excuse to conduct an air strike.

Worth mentioning here, there were strict restrictions on this interview. In fact, the AFP didn't even get to shoot the interview. It was the Syrian regime who actually hit record. And they only gave the AFP a piece of the interview.


BASHAR AL ASSAD, SYRIAN PRESIDENT: It's not clear whether it could happen or not, because how can you verify the individual KBR video. We don't know, were the children dead at all.


BALDWIN: Let me bring in Mikheil Saakashvili, the former president of Georgia and opposition leader in Ukraine.

Mr. President, welcome back.


BALDWIN: Let's begin with Assad's words, his denial. We heard him say he thinks the video where his own people were killed was staged. He also says that the U.S. is now, quote, "working hand in glove with terrorists." What do you make of those comments?

SAAKASHVILI: Well, it's very typical of Assad and Russia. It's their common propaganda tactics. When they were bombing kids in Aleppo, they said that these were rebels spraying them with some ash to make the scenes for world media. Back in old times, when they were bombing us in Russia, they said, no, this is not us, this is their own place bombing their own civilians. They always find their common tune and lie to the world. BALDWIN: Mr. Saakashvili, you're unique when it comes to Russia

because you've gone to war against Vladimir Putin. Russia is defending Assad on this, in the words of Rex Tillerson. Do you, sir, think Russia is implicit or incompetent?

SAAKASHVILI: Well, we should understand what Putin is all about. He's all about testing the red lines of the west. He does it very diligently and carefully. My gut feeling is telling me that the chemical weapons attack was a Russian design to test the new administration's resolve.

BALDWIN: I'm sorry. You're saying you believe it was a Russian design, that the Russians were in and complicit?

SAAKASHVILI: I cannot imagine a situation where Assad is so dependent on Russian help. I cannot imagine any circumstances like that. And that's kind of a way to test the new Trump administration, how they would react and if they failed to react, that would have been the end of it. So basically, it looks like a very careful design. I don't think it was accidental in any way.

BALDWIN: Do you think Vladimir Putin even wants to have a good relationship with the United States or do you think it's good for him back home, all of this tough talk against the U.S. in the White House?

SAAKASHVILI: Well, remember, Vladimir Putin has always regarded the United States as an adversary of Russia. It was inflicted on the Soviet Union and Russia by the United States. So for him, the ultimate goal would never change. He's focused on it, he's obsessed with it. I had lots of dealings with him. You always saw dealings, even with his neighbors. Through the spectrum of his relations with the United States and the Russia competition with the United States. So you know what he did, he was trying to test the Trump administration and seeing what would happen.

BALDWIN: You did see it as a test?


BALDWIN: I've been asking a couple different people. Do you think --


[14:35:00] BALDWIN: Forgive me, but do you think as candidate Trump, when he would never speak an ill word of Russia, you think only now Vladimir Putin is happier because of this break in relationship, this low point, as Secretary Tillerson called it?

SAAKASHVILI: Well, I don't think Vladimir Putin should be happy. It's composition of character. I've known Vladimir Putin for quite some years and I know Assad and I know how they have been reacting with each other. Vladimir Putin is about two things. He takes the upper hand with the west not because he's so strong or so capable. Basically, he counts on two features of the western leaders, on their predictability. They are very predictable because they have checks and balances and counts on their capacity -- they always blink first. BALDWIN: But President Trump isn't predictable, Mr. President.

SAAKASHVILI: Yes. So I think the fact that he's not predictable, it's a big surprise for Putin and the other thing that he has -- Vladimir Putin comes to the neighborhood as the biggest bully and says, here I am. Who wants to deal with me? And nobody wanted to deal with him. And now we have another strong character coming in saying, wait a minute, I'm not going to blink and you have the U.S. president who is not hesitating to use force and it's a nightmare for Vladimir Putin. I predicted from the start that Trump would be hard for Putin to crack. Putin is counting on a character that's been intimidated and Putin always hopes to get in the west and dreamt to get in the U.S., some idiots that can carry out his plan. And undermine the alliances and never made a big secret of it. What's happening now should be against his desires and quite a surprise of him. So now they gave instruction to all Russian media to stop praising Donald Trump and so that's a big reversal. People are talking about reversal to Donald Trump. However, I think that it's not as simple as that. In Putin's case, you have a U-turn for 180 degrees. They don't like the United States again.

BALDWIN: What about --


BALDWIN: Mr. Saakashvili, to your point about having these two big personalities, bullies, however you want to say it, in the same sandbox, what's the next move?

SAAKASHVILI: Remember, Donald Trump is a new president. Putin has been around for quite a long time. There's a Russian neighborhood and in the entire world people are fed up with him, not only the outside Russia but also more and more people inside Russia. We have the new U.S. administration and forces are not comparable. I mean, the U.S. is much stronger. The problem with U.S. and the other Western leaders in the past has been that because the U.S. in this part of the world has been less than the Russian state in fear to the U.S., then they always blinked first and Russia always projected from their basic position of weakness much more strength because he was willing, Putin was willing to go to the end. Putin was willing to be unpredictable. And now it's all changing and that's suddenly confronted by a guy who says, OK, you want to raise the stakes, let's go with it. You want to use force, I'm going to respond. And you know, it's not accidental. It's their way to say we've said don't touch us, we're too close to conflict. And here's a guy who says, OK, if it's a conflict, it's a conflict. Putin is not a mad man. He will back off when he sees a strong character. I think, in this case --


BALDWIN: Well, we'll see.

SAAKASHVILI: -- a very strong adversary.

BALDWIN: We'll see. We'll see if he backs off.

And we'll continue this conversation. Your perspective is always absolutely fascinating.

Mikheil Saakashvili, sir, thank you so much.

SAAKASHVILI: Thank you so very much.

[14:39:20] BALDWIN: Thank you.

Back to the breaking news. President Trump ordering the U.S. to, quote, "drop the Mother of All Bombs" in Afghanistan. A bomb designed to intimidate. So stand by for more details on that.

Also ahead, yanked from his seat, dragged down that aisle of a United flight, refusing to give up his spot. Now, for the first time, that passenger's family and lawyers are speaking out. Hear what they said, next.


BALDWIN: We're following breaking news here out of Afghanistan. We have learned that the U.S. military has dropped what they are calling the Mother of All Bombs. It's this MOAB bomb. 21,600 pounds here in Afghanistan, specifically in the Nangarhar (ph) Province, on ISIS tunnels. There are caves, tunnels, a whole labyrinth in this whole section of Afghanistan and that was the target of this massive ordinance air blast bomb. So that has just happened. We're learning more about that.

And keeping a close eye on North Korea as it may be preparing to launch its sixth nuclear test this weekend. The country may have had the capability to deliver missiles equipped with chemical weapons. This is coming out here from the Japanese prime minister speaking to his country's parliament today. Shinzo Abe, describing the situation with North Korea as increasingly severe and suggested the reclusive country could potentially arm weapons with the sarin nerve agent.

So Gordon Chang is with me, "Daily Beast" columnist and author of "Nuclear Showdown: North Korea Takes on the World."

You are excellent on all things North Korea. Thank you for sitting down.

Just to give the viewers a heads up, we're about to hear from the president of the United States who is at the White House having visitors from Georgia, from that I-85 bridge collapse and massive fire. Amazingly, no one was killed. So he's thanking these responders.

But apparently, in this conversation with the cameras he did make comments on this bomb in Afghanistan and in North Korea. So we're waiting for that and that will happen momentarily.

Meantime, how are you viewing all of this?

[14:45:56] GORDON CHANG, COLUNMNIST, THE DAILY BEAST & AUTHOR: I think there's no coincidence that he put those two topics together because no country has put more of its military and governmental offices underground than North Korea. The Iranians have been able to bury their weapons program because they gave them the tunnel expertise and were on site. So when they dropped this bomb and two or three weeks ago they were talking about decapitation strikes on Kim Jong-Un, I think what they are saying to the North Korean --


BALDWIN: Forgive me. Here's the president.


Thank you all very much.


TRUMP: Very, very proud of the people. Really, another successful job. We're very, very proud of our military. Just like we're proud of the folks in this room, we are so proud of our military, and it was another successful event.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Did you authorize it, sir?

TRUMP: Everybody knows exactly what happened. And what I do is I authorize my military. We have the greatest military in the world and they've done a great job as usual. So we've given them total authorization. And that's what they're doing. And frankly, that's why they have been so successful lately. If you look at what has happened in the last eight weeks and compare that to what has happened in the last eight years, you'll see there's a tremendous difference, a tremendous difference. So we have incredible leaders in the military and we have incredible military, and we are very proud of them. And this was another very, very successful mission.

Thank you very much.




TRUMP: I don't know if this sends a message. It doesn't make any difference if it does or not. North Korea is a problem. The problem will be taken care of. I will say this. I think China has really been working really hard. And I have really gotten to like and respect, as you know, President Xi. He's a terrific person. We spent a lot of time together in Florida. And he's a very special man. We'll see how it goes. I think he's going to try very hard.

Thank you. Thank you very much.

BALDWIN: So he was asked about the bomb in Afghanistan and North Korea.

To your point, the question was asked, is this sending a message to North Korea even though the president sort of said I don't know if this necessarily sends a message. You were saying, yes, it does.

CHANG: It certainly has to. Because they haven't used this weapon before. You know, they have used it on underground tunnels in Afghanistan.

BALDWIN: It's never been used in battle, ever. It was developed during the Iraq War but it's never been used.

CHANG: So now that they have the target, they have not only ISIS and Afghanistan but they also have North Korean tunnels where a large part of the North Korean military has hidden itself. In 2003, during the Iraq war, Kim Jong-Un, the ruler of North Korea, his dad, Kim Jong-Il, spent weeks underground.

BALDWIN: Do you think this is a test run?

CHANG: Maybe it was going to work. But I actually think they timed it just because they wanted to sort of unnerve Kim Jong-Un and this is on -- before Saturday where the 105th anniversary of Kim Jong-Il --


BALDWIN: His grandfather?

CHANG: His grandfather. He's going to maybe celebrate his power with the country's debt nation of the sixth device. That's going to unnerve us. I think Trump was trying to unnerve him first.

BALDWIN: What about his comments about President Xi of China. Apparently in the conversation with President Xi, he said you help us with North Korea and we won't ask for stringent trade deals from you.

[14:49:56] CHANG: I wouldn't make that deal because we need progress on both but both of Trump's predecessors has tried to work with China. It didn't work then. Xi Jinping has been in power since November 2012. The North Koreans have detonated three nuclear devices. He hasn't stopped those. China has a real interest in making sure North Korea unnerves us. I hope there was a change in heart on the part of the Chinese leader but we've really got to see it before we believe it.

BALDWIN: Gordon Chang, thank you so much.

CHANG: Thanks, Brooke.

BALDWIN: Thank you.

Moments from now, the new CIA director will make rare comments amid all of this.

Plus, more on our breaking news. The U.S. is dropping in MOAB bomb, which is actually really known as the Mother of All Bombs here, on ISIS in Afghanistan, a bomb designed, according to military experts, to intimidate and have psychological ramifications as well. Why has this bomb never been used until this point? We're following all of this. Stay with me.


BALDWIN: All right. New developments today regarding the United Airlines passenger who was dragged out of his seat, dragged down that aisle. You have heard the cries many times this week. People are outraged over this. We're learning today that the passenger suffered more than some bumps and bruises and some blood on his face here.

Attorneys for this Kentucky doctor, Dr. David Dao, and Dr. Dao's daughter, held a news conference this morning.


[14:54:51] THOMAS DEMETRIO, ATTORNEY FOR DR. DAVID DAO: I would defy anyone to suggest that there was not unreasonable force and violence used to help Dr. Dao disembark that plane. He did, in fact, suffer a significant concussion as a result of disembarking that plane. And I can also tell you that he had a serious broken nose, injury to the sinuses and he is going to be undergoing shortly reconstructive surgery in that regard. There have been a lot of inquiries, did he really lose any teeth? He lost two front teeth.

CRYSTAL PEPPER, DAUGHTER OF DR. DAVID DAO: What happened to my dad should have never happened to any human beings regardless of the circumstance. We were horrified and shocked and sickened to learn what had happened to him and to see what had happened to him. We hope that in the future nothing like this happens again.

DEMETRIO: What's unfortunately occurred here in Dr. Dao's case is rudeness, bullying customers has gone the next step now to physical injury. He said that being dragged down the aisle was more horrifying and harrowing than what he experienced in leaving Vietnam.



CNN legal analyst and former defense attorney, Mark Geragos, is with me; former Florida circuit judge, and a former host of "Judge Alex," Alex Ferrer is with me.

Gentlemen, I was hanging on that lawyer's every word during that news conference this morning, just hearing the description, the teeth banged out, the broken nose, the concussion, the daughter saying that he raised four doctors, five kids.

Alex, how do you see this playing out?

ALEX FERRER, FORMER CIRCUIT JUDGE & FORMER HOST, JUDGE ALEX: This is the worst possible scenario for United Airlines -- the thing about this case is that everybody was right and everybody was wrong. United legally was right to tell him he had to leave the plane. As much as I hate it, I fly all the time, our contract of care rage, every time we board a plane says they can ask us to leave if they overbook and it was perfectly legal. They were right to do that. They were completely wrong to do it and have the police do it in this manner. The passenger is right, he paid for his seat but they can't resist the police because they have a legal right to tell the cops to remove him from his seat. The cops were law in informing the law because the captain of the ship dictates. The police have no choice but to say you have to go. If it comes to the use of force, that's what it comes to. They may have been wrong because if I was the officer on that plane I would have gone to the pilot three or four times and say, he's not leaving. You're asking me to drag a paying passenger on off the plane. He's likely to do this. The airline should have offered him thousands of dollars to have somebody leave. They always offer you $500 when they overbook, $700. They should have gone up to $1,000, $2,000 --

BALDWIN: Not every airline.

FERRER: -- whatever it took.

BALDWIN: Yeah, so --

FERRER: Every airline I've been bumped off.

BALDWIN: I know. Me, too. And apparently, a woman made 11 grand getting bumped with her family. So I guess


FERRER: It's a lot better than a $1.9 billion in value they lost.


Mark Geragos, United issued a statement following this news conference promising big changes that will take effect. Of note, they won't let the crew board the plane if a passenger won't give up his seat. Is that where you start if you're United?

MARK GERAGOS, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: United has to do something but I think the big change is going to be that that CEO -- I give the CEO 24 more hours before he resigns. You couldn't have had a more tone-deaf response than the CEO the day before yesterday. And trying to clean it up with the apology, which I think he's been excoriated for as well because it seems contrived, this is over and apart from the legal ramification, because they've created a seven or eight-figure case. You have a case study they will be studying in business school and law school for how not to handle a crisis, and this would be Exhibit A.

BALDWIN: How not to handle a crisis by dragging off an airline passenger, physically, off a plane.

Gentlemen, thank you for your time.

Got to move along and get to this breaking news.

ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

[14:59:53] BALDWIN: Here we go. Top of the hour. You're watching CNN. I'm Brooke Baldwin.

Let's talk about what's just happened in Afghanistan in just a second.

But a heads-up for all of you, we are about to see CIA Director Mike Pompeo give his first major public appearance since taking over this post. So he will be speaking at a national security event. And we'll take that live as soon as he stands behind that podium.