Return to Transcripts main page


Trump's Pick to Replace Comey May Come Within Days; Clapper: Developments of Past Week "Very Bothersome"; North Korea to U.S. "Do Not Provoke Us"; Harrowing Video Shows Syria's War on Its Own People; Does Comey Firing Impact Fear Gauge in Wall Street? Aired 6-7p ET

Aired May 14, 2017 - 18:00   ET


[18:00:07] ANA CABRERA, CNN ANCHOR: Top of the hour, I'm Ana Cabrera, in New York. You' are live in the CNN NEWSROOM. Happy Mother's Day.

We begin this hour with President Trump who may soon say you're hired to a new FBI director. The president hinting he may reveal his pick to replace James Comey before he leaves Washington Friday for his international trip since taking office. At least these eight candidates are being interviewed. Comey was leading the investigation into Russia's election meddling and possible collusion between Russia and the Trump campaign when Trump fired him last week. Democrats are calling for a special prosecutor to take over that investigation.

Meantime, a new NBC-Wall Street poll shows, in a highly divided nation, nearly 80 percent of those polled would prefer an independent commission or a special prosecutor.

I want to bring in White House correspondent Athena Jones.

Athena, what are you hearing about the president being surprise by the uproar over Comey's termination?

ATHENA JONES, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: This is pretty remarkable, Ana, the fact that the president was surprised. He thought that he would be applauded for making this move. And if you listen to what he told Judge Jeanine Pirro on Fox, he sounded not just surprised but also defiant. Watch.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I guess I was a little bit surprised because all of the Democrats -- I mean, they hated Jim Comey. They didn't like him. They wanted him fired or whatever. And then, all of the sudden, they come out with these glowing reports.

Look, I thought that this would be a very popular thing that I did when I terminated Comey because all of the Democrats couldn't stand him. But because I terminated him, they say, ah, we get some political points, we'll go against Trump.


JONES: So, there you hear the president saying he's surprised at the reaction but also slamming Democrats for that reaction. One more example of his defiance is the fact that on Wednesday, amidst all the uproar other his decision to fire Director Comey, he tweeted out a link that was a mash-up to a bunch of Democrats criticizing Comey as if to further justify his move.

But on the matter on being surprised, we've been reporting this for a few days now and the president's words back it up, we know that the president kept this decision close to the vest. He didn't talk about it with a lot of people as he has done in the past. He likes usually get a lot of opinions from the people around him about whatever topic he may be about to make a big decision on. He didn't do that in this case.

We did learn that Chief of Staff Reince Priebus was against this move to fire Comey. Clearly, the president didn't listen to him. But that's part of the reason the White House was so surprised by this blowback. Seasoned political hands who could have said, look, this is not going to look good for you to fire the man who was in charge of this Russia investigation, those people didn't have a chance to weigh in -- Ana.

CABRERA: And it's interesting that both Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner has been out of the picture since all of this unfolded.

Athena, going back to now where we're at and the upcoming search for this new FBI director, what's the latest?

JONES: Well, the latest from the president, he said this on Air Force One heading down to a commencement speech he was giving yesterday. He predicted that this is something they could make a move on quickly, maybe even before he leaves on Friday for this first foreign trip.

But another White House official says it would be a challenge to get this done before Friday. It doesn't mean that's impossible. But, often, you hear the president setting a timeline that isn't entirely realistic.

One more thing we do know is that the president is planning to interview just the leading candidates, just the finalists in this selection process. Now, that could be one person or two people or three people. We don't know about that. But we do know from an official that he's going to be, you know, reviewing and reading the report and the recommendation from the folks participating in this interview process, Attorney General Sessions. And then meet with the candidates.

So, it could come soon, but it might not come before this trip -- Ana.

CABRERA: Athena Jones at the White House for us -- thanks.

President Trump continues to deny his campaign has any political ties to Russia, pointing directly to the former director of national intelligence who said there was no evidence of collusion. The president tweeted this last week, when James Clapper himself and virtually everyone else with knowledge of the witch hunts says there is no collusion, when does it end?

Well, Clapper sat down with CNN's Jack Tapper today to clarify those statements.


JAMES CLAPPER, FORMER DIRECTOR OF NATIONAL INTELLIGENCE: I deferred to the FBI director, both Director Mueller and then Director Comey, as to whether, when and what to tell me about any counterintelligence investigations that they might have under way.

So, it was kind of standard practice. So, my statement was premised on first the context of our intelligence community assessment on Russian interference with the election. We did not -- there was no -- no reporting in that intelligence community assessment about political collusion.

[18:05:00] We did not -- I did not have any evidence, did not know about the investigation.

TAPPER: You didn't even know that the FBI was conducting an investigation?

CLAPPER: I did not, and, even more importantly, did not know the content or the status of that investigation.

And there's all kinds of reasons why that's so, but this -- these are sensitive. We try to keep them as compartmented as possible. And, importantly, these invariably involve U.S. persons. And so we try to be very differential to that.

TAPPER: This week, with the president firing the FBI director while this investigation is going on, and then saying that he was thinking about the Russia probe when he was making the decision, have we crossed a line here?

CLAPPER: Well, I will just say that the developments of the past week are very bothersome, very disturbing to me.

I think, in many ways, our institutions are under assault, both externally -- and that's the big news here, is the Russian interference in our election system. And I think as well our institutions are under assault internally.

TAPPER: Internally from the president?

CLAPPER: Exactly.

TAPPER: Because he's firing the checks and balances?

CLAPPER: Well, I think, you know, the Founding Fathers, in their genius, created a system of three co-equal branches of government and a built-in system of checks and balances.

And I feel as though that's under assault and is eroding.

TAPPER: What's been the impact in the intelligence community of the firing of James Comey?

CLAPPER: Well, I think, at large, there is concern about it.

I do know that it came as a great shock to and was very disturbing to FBI employees. I spoke to one last night at a dinner that was quite upset about it. And I think that reflects the feeling, the widespread feeling in the FBI.

People had issues, I'm sure, with Director Comey's -- some of his decisions. That's fine. People took issue with decisions I made. That's part of the deal.

But I think, as far as his stature as a leader and his integrity, people are very upset about the way he was treated.


CABRERA: As we continue to learn new details about what led up to the decision to fire James Comey, the White House is trying to get its story straight.

CNN's Tom Foreman reminds us how this whole saga got started -- Tom.


TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Ana, if you look at the timeline leading up to James Comey's dismissal, you see a very dramatic change.

Here we are in the heat of the election last year, July 5th. This is back when Comey came out saying he would not charge Hillary Clinton with a crime for her handling of classified information in her e-mail but he did sharply criticize her.

After that he moved on, testified to the House Oversight Committee, right before the election came out with new documents, needed to look at those again, then came out shortly after that and said, no, nothing has changed. And then, on to Election Day, where Hillary Clinton lost.

All of this would have been positive for Donald Trump and indeed he was saying very positive things about the FBI and James Comey during this period of time, all the way up through inauguration day and his meetings shortly thereafter with Comey when he said, I think you're more famous than I am.

All through this period of time, if you consider the events, this would have been a period in which the Democrats would have been at odds and Donald Trump was promoting the idea that Comey and the FBI were doing a fantastic job. He was happy with what they were doing.

Then comes a big, big change because here, between the inauguration, in March, Comey confirms the FBI is investigating the Trump team's possible ties to Russian meddling in the election. And then things change, the tone changes. He goes on to testify before the Senate judiciary committee, Comey did, where he overstated the Clinton-Abedin e-mail. And you see the response from the White House becoming much less friendly to Comey at this point. Then, he's fired here on the 9th. If you listen to what the White House is saying, they're saying now in

effect all of this time that the straight-talking candidates was saying James Comey and the FBI were doing a good job, he really was not happy with the job they were doing, really did not think he was up to snuff. But if you listen to the skeptics, who've watched everything that's occurred in the past few days, they're going the say, no, this is the period of time, the period of time that led to his firing was centered around one main thing, James Comey and the push to look more deeply and more effectively into this possible Russian meddling situation.

[18:10:03] That's where they think the focus has to be as you look at this timeline which really, Ana, is more of the time tangle at this point.


CABRERA: Thank you, Tom Foreman.

Straight ahead, the White House says the FBI's rank and file are happy over Comey's firing. But the acting director at the bureau disagrees. Next, a former FBI agent weighs in.

You're live in the CNN NEWSROOM.


CABRERA: We continue our focus on the big job vacancy that's keeping all of Washington in suspense. At least six men and two women are being considered for the position of FBI director. But who will be chosen to succeed James Comey who was fired last week by President Trump and will that person have the confidence of the bureau's rank- and-file members.

CNN law enforcement contributor and retired FBI supervisory special agent, Steve Moore, is joining us now from Los Angeles.

Steve, I want to play something the president said about Comey during his NBC interview this week.


[18:15:05] TRUMP: Look, he's a showboat. He's a grandstander. The FBI has been in turmoil. You know that, I know that, everybody knows that. You take a look at the FBI a year ago, it was in virtual turmoil, less than a year ago. It hasn't recovered from that.


CABRERA: Steve, is that what you're hearing about Comey's time as director?

STEVE MOORE, CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT CONTRIBUTOR: No. I think a lot of agents are going to be surprised to hear they were in turmoil. If there was -- if there was an issue in the FBI, it was a belief that under the previous administration, a certain case was not going to get prosecuted. That they weren't going to be able to get a grand jury going, and that did cause some consternation in the bureau.

And if -- again, the only consternation I think there was in the bureau, according to my friends at the time, is that they felt that Comey was not being listened to. He wasn't able to persuade the administration at that point.

CABRERA: To persuade them to do what?

MOORE: To either prosecute or at least get a grand jury going on the Hillary Clinton matter. The FBI agents I think, by and large, believe that that was -- that that was something that that they could do, that they should do. But since the election, there hasn't been so much turmoil.

CABRERA: OK. So here's what deputy White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said that she heard from FBI employees about James Comey's firing.


REPORTER: But you said now today and I think you said again yesterday that you personally have talked to countless FBI officials, employees, since this happened.


REPORTER: I mean, really? Like -- I mean, really -- so are we talking --

SANDERS: Between like e-mails, text messages, absolutely.



REPORTER: Sixty? Seventy? I mean, like --

SANDERS: I'm not getting -- look, we're not going to get into a numbers game. I mean, I have heard from a large number of individuals that work at the FBI that said that they're very happy with the president's decision. I mean, I don't know what else I can say.


CABRERA: Steve, what's your response to that?

MOORE: She and I are talking to different FBI agents. I haven't heard that at all. And I think the only type of agent who would be happy with this firing is somebody who was a die hard Donald Trump fan. But, generally, the agents aren't in favor of their director being fired, especially when they believe that he was pursuing legitimate cases.

CABRERA: I think you touched on this earlier but I want a little bit of clarity. Were there concerns among the rank and file in the FBI about Director Comey's press conferences during the presidential campaign on the Hillary e-mail investigation?

MOORE: The feedback that I was getting was that the FBI agents, when he went forward with the proposed press conference, felt that the FBI doesn't get involved in political situations. So, either he was going to announce a prosecution or there was something else going on.

I think they were kind of confused by the fact that he went on to state the issues he had in the case. He discussed the case publicly, but then said he wasn't going to prosecute. I believe that from what I've heard, the agents felt that there was sufficient evidence to prosecute and I think that was the only confusion that the agents had. Why would he go on and have a press conference if he wasn't going to prosecute?

CABRERA: What is the morale inside the FBI right now?

MOORE: I think the morale is -- I would describe it as probably a little defiant. They've got their neck up a little bit about this. See, FBI agents have finally calibrated BS meters. And whether this was the case or not, when the sitting president fired the director at a time when the president's organization or the president's campaign or administration, whatever you want to call it, was part of an investigation of potential Russian meddling in a U.S. election, the agents smelled a rat.

And again, that's what they're paid to do. They are paid to follow smoke and see if there's fire. So, right now, I would say that the agents are supporting a full and exhaustive investigation in this case which will result in either the clearing of the administration completely or further revelations which aren't pleasant.

CABRERA: How important is the FBI director specifically to an investigation?

[18:20:06] MOORE: The FBI director doesn't make the day-to-day investigative decisions. And in 99 percent of the cases, he's not even aware of what's going on out in the field. He's not going to get involved in a bank robbery or even a fraud case. But if it gets political, the FBI director is there to stand up for the agency, to get things pushed through.

I mean, I can remember years ago, my dad was an agent. There was Abscam going on. The FBI was investigating congressmen and the FBI director had to stand up and take a beating in front of congressional committees had their budgets cut. The FBI director is out there to pave the road ahead of the agents. And Comey was generally doing that very well.

CABRERA: I know we're out of time but I want to get the name that you would like to see be selected.

MOORE: John Pistole, former deputy director now president of Anderson University.

CABRERA: All right. Steve Moore, thanks for weighing in. We appreciate your insight. MOORE: Thank you.

CABRERA: America's government was designed with checks and balances, but our next guest asks, does President Trump think he can get away with anything? We'll talk to him about the limits of power and whether the White House understands them.

You're live in the CNN NEWSROOM.


[18:25:36] CABRERA: President Trump's stunning decision to fire the FBI director has dominated the headlines. So, here's a recap of some of the other stories in the news in case you missed them this week.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions has rolled back some leniencies of the Obama administration when it comes to federal prosecution. His new directive for federal prosecutors across the country -- charge suspects with the most serious offense you can prove.


JEFF SESSIONS, U.S. ATTORNEY GENERAL: Going forward, I have empowered our prosecutors to charge and pursue the most serious offense as I believe the law requires, most serious readily provable offense. It means that we're going to meet our responsibility to enforce the law with judgment and fairness. It is simply the right and moral thing to do.


CABRERA: The effects of this decision will likely be felt most widely and immediately in drug cases where federal mandatory minimums established by Congress can be harsh even for first time offenders.

President Trump says he's very proud of his tax returns and may even consider releasing them once he's out of office. The president said this responding to a question in an interview with "The Economist". He was asked whether he would release his returns in exchange for Democratic support for tracks reform. And the president said he would never consider this as part of a deal. But he suggested at some point he'd release them saying he did a good job with them.

You know, environmentalists have been worried since President Trump took office. But they got a rare win in the Senate this week, with the help of a few Republicans who crossed party lines on a procedural vote. The Senate defeated an attempt to roll back an Obama era plan for containing methane emissions. The vote was 49-51. Several environmental groups have put out statements praising this vote.

So, a lot happening this week, but let's dig deeper now into the story, there's no way you missed, the firing of FBI Director James Comey.

And joining me to discuss, a man who says President Trump thinks he can get away with anything -- CNN political analyst and historian Julian Zelizer.

Julian, what makes you say that?

JULIAN ZELIZER, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, we've seen a number of instances throughout the presidency where he's pushed the boundaries of his authority, whether it was the executive order on the refugee ban. But obviously, this week's news was front and center, to fire the head of the FBI which is within his legal authority, but to do it while the FBI is conducting a major investigation into the possibility of collusion between his campaign and the Russians. That is using your power aggressively and I think we have evidence that he believes he'll be protected if he continues to act this way.

CABRERA: Historian Timothy Naftali told me here yesterday it's too soon to use the I-word, impeachment. Do you agree?

ZELIZER: Well, people are using it and that's notable. This weekend, you've seen an acceleration of a discussion of that. Impeachment is a political process. So, Congress can do it whenever they want.

President Trump has benefitted from the fact you have a Republican Congress. And the Republicans generally have not done anything yet to suggest they're moving that way. So, the question is, does that support start to crack because of actions like these?

CABRERA: I want to pull out a quote from the op-ed you wrote for You write: Beside his own sense of self, Trump's arrogance about what is possible comes from his counting on many aspects of our political system to protect him from political or legal punishment.

Who or what do you think the president is counting on for protection?

ZELIZER: The most important is partisanship. He is counting on the fact that even if many Republicans don't like him personally or they don't like a lot of what he does, generally, they will be loyal to party above everything else. And if that happens, the Democrats can't really do much to punish or even to conduct the kind of investigation that they want into the administration. He also benefits from a conservative media.

Unlike Richard Nixon, there's a whole separate media world today with left and right media and that provides a narrative to many Americans that is beneficial to the president.

CABRERA: And there's all social media thing and fake news in some cases that is promoted on social media.

ZELIZER: Exactly, and the final thing I talked about is our short attention span culture where we tend to move from one issue to the other. And I think the administration and the president is cognizant of this. And part of him thinks, eventually, the country will soon move on to other issues.

[18:30:00] CABRERA: You talked about the partisanship and the great divide we see in Congress.


CABRERA: Do you think Republicans will eventually stand up to President Trump?

ZELIZER: Well, it's been notable over the last few days. You've heard more rhetorical standing up to the President, whether it's Senator McCain or Lindsey Graham saying something has to be done. That's different than a vote. That's different than actually calling for an independent investigation or conducting a very aggressive one. We haven't reached that tipping point yet.

And partisanship, again, is incredibly powerful. Unless Republicans start to change how they vote, how they act, not just how they talk, the President still can survive even the news of the last few days.

CABRERA: We heard that one of the reasons that he fired James Comey was because he would not pledge his loyalty to him. And in regards to the Russia investigation, he was worried about it accelerating, that investigation. We heard this issue of loyalty brought up with Nikki Haley, the U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. today. Listen to what she says.


NIKKI HALEY, UNITED STATES AMBASSADOR TO THE UNITED NATIONS: I think when you take the job, you automatically assume that you work for the President, and you are part of a team and loyalty is a big thing. As a former governor, I can tell you loyalty and trust is everything when you're a CEO. And so I can totally understand why he's looking for loyalty and trust because all of these --

GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS, ABC NEWS ANCHOR: But loyalty to the constitution first, correct?

HALEY: Of course.


CABRERA: What do you make of that?

ZELIZER: Well, that's not accurate. Obviously, a president wants people to be loyal to them, but the head of a law enforcement agency is, obviously, going to be loyal both to the constitution and to the law. And that should be what a president actually wants.

A president should not want an FBI director who is blindly loyal. They want someone who will go wherever the facts take them. That's traditionally what has happened. And I think the President undercuts himself by making those kinds of requests, and he certainly alienates himself from many FBI officials who don't like to see a president thinking that way.

CABRERA: I want you all to take a look at this new NBC/"Wall Street Journal" poll. Let's put it put guys. It finds that nearly eight in 10 Americans want to see a special prosecutor or an independent commission assigned to the investigation into the Trump campaign. Do you think the public will accept any conclusion short of a special prosecutor being involved?

ZELIZER: Well, it's moving in that direction. I think, in some ways, this has now shifted from the investigation into Russia to the investigation into obstruction of justice. And when that's the question, more support for some kind of independent look into this becomes a key demand.

And, look, members of Congress are looking at 2018, and they're looking at these kinds of polls. And if you continue to see this, you will see more Republicans say, I think we need an independent person or committee to look into this, especially if the President himself is tweeting things and saying things that suggest the worst suspicions might be true.

CABRERA: Raising more questions. Julian Zelizer, thanks for coming on.

ZELIZER: Thank you.

CABRERA: It's nice to see you. Coming up, some breaking news. A new warning from North Korea to the United States. We'll take you live to Beijing next here in the CNN NEWSROOM. Don't go anywhere.


[18:37:09] CABRERA: Breaking news into CNN. North Korea now warning the United States not to provoke the North saying it can strike the mainland. This comes after a ballistic missile test about 24 hours ago. Let's get right to David McKenzie joining us from Beijing.

David, what is the north threatening to do?

DAVID MCKENZIE, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, that's right. The North Korean state news agency is, Ana, saying that this was a successful test of a missile, medium to long range ground-to-ground missile, fired early Sunday in North Korea.

And they are putting that provocative threat to the United States. They're claiming that the U.S. mainland and Pacific operation are within North Korean sighting strike range specifically. This is in line with the propaganda we've seen from North Korea in recent weeks and months, but this will be seen as a success by them.

They say that this missile test was personally supervised by Kim Jong- un, the country's young leader, and that it flew at an extraordinary 1,300 miles or so above the Earth and for a very long distance, landing near Russia. It's drawing condemnation from the U.S., from China, and Russia. But this new missile test shows that North Korea appears to be stopping at nothing to continue with testing and developing its missile systems, Ana.

CABRERA: David, this was not an intercontinental ballistic missile though, right?

MCKENZIE: No, it appears that this was not that type of missile. It is, according to the North Koreans, Hwasong-12 missile, potentially a new type of missile being developed. Why this is disturbing to experts is you've had several recent failed missile launches. According to South Korean and U.S. officials, this, on some level, appears to be at least a success and does seem to be showing that they are developing their capabilities.

The U.S. says it didn't start any alerts for its Pacific command. The same with Japan, for their alarm system that goes off should they be threatened by a missile system. But it does shows that, at this stage, the North Koreans aren't really wanting to talk, even though they've hinted at that. They want to continue pursuing developing their military strategic capabilities, Ana.

CABRERA: David McKenzie, thank you.

[18:39:33] Coming up, a CNN exclusive showing the horrors of war. Our Clarissa Ward takes you to Syria to see the immediate aftermath of last month's chemical attack in yet another example of Syria's war on its very own children. Do not miss this.


CABRERA: Last month, the shocking chemical attack on the Syrian town of Khan Sheikhoun led to the first American military strike against the regime of Bashar al-Assad. I want to warn you, what you're about to see is extremely disturbing.

If you have children in the room, you'll want to have them leave now as I toss to CNN International Correspondent Clarissa Ward who presents never before seen footage, terrifying and heartbreaking, shining a horrifying but important light on the immediate aftermath of that fateful day. Clarissa.

CLARISSA WARD, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: I want to warn our viewers that this is extremely disturbing material. And if you have children at home, you might want to have them leave the room.

When the chemical attack Khan Sheikhoun, some very brave journalist from the Aleppo Media Center went straight to the scene at enormous personal risks. The footage they shot offers an unvarnished, unsanitized, up-close look at the horror of a war crime, which is why we felt it is so important to show you.


[18:45:00] WARD (voice-over): The attack happened shortly after dawn. Cameramen Adam Hussein (ph) says that warplanes are targeting the town of Khan Sheikhoun. From his rooftop, he quickly see this is no ordinary strike. "They are using toxic gas," he reports.

ADAM HUSSEIN (PH), CAMERAMAN, ALEPPO MEDIA CENTER (through translator): Five minutes after the attack, there was a call for anyone with a vehicle to go to the scene to help. I headed straight there.

WARD (voice-over): But nothing could prepare him for what he was about to see. We must warn you, these images are shocking. It is a scene of unimaginable horror. The immediate aftermath of a chemical attack.

HUSSEIN (through translator): The number of victims keeps going up. And many are women and children.

WARD (voice-over): All around him, people are foaming at the mouth. Convulsions wracking their bodies. As rescue workers try in vain to wash away the chemicals.

Look at the kids here, someone tells him. The limp bodies of small children lying next to those still gasping for life. Death for these innocents is agonizing and slow.

Doctor Hassan al-Nisham (ph) is among the first responders.

DR. HASSAN AL-NISHAM (PH), SYRIAN DOCTOR (through translator): All of the cases were suffering from suffocation, convulsions, narrowing of the pupils, increased sweating, and difficulty breathing. All this is proof that a chemical agent was used. I asked the rescue workers to first wash the victims with water and take off their clothes. This was the only first aid we could provide.

Nineteen-year-old Muhammad al-Delal (ph) lies thrashing on the ground. One of the survivors, he later describes the moment the gas hit him.

MUHAMMAD AL-DELAL (PH), CHEMICAL ATTACK SURVIVOR (through translator): I fell down and I couldn't feel a thing. I felt myself laying on the ground and my hands were hitting the ground, and then I fainted. It was as if I was hitting myself. I had no control. I couldn't see anything with my eyes.

WARD (voice-over): The casualties are brought to a nearby clinic, built underground to protect it from air strikes. A man brings in his lifeless little girl. He is sure he has seen her chest moving, but the doctor says it's just air trapped in her chest. There is nothing left but to pray and say good-bye.

Suddenly, there is panic as news comes in of more fighter jets heading that way. Local journalist Yaman al-Khatib (ph) is in the middle of delivering a report.

YAMAN AL-KHATIB (PH), LOCAL JOURNALIST (through translator): Right now, the warplanes are circling -- go out, go out, go out.

WARD (voice-over): The camera crew tries to escape the chaos. But once outside, another missile hits.

The journalists manage to survive. All casualties must now be taken for treatment half an hour away. At that hospital, body bags are already piling up on the sidewalk from the attack as the dead are brought out to make room for the living. The tiniest victims are carried in gingerly one by one by one.

[18:50:00] Inside medical staff struggle to cope with the flood of patients and only a limited supply of the lifesaving antidote, atropine. Most are treated hastily on the floor as distraught relatives look on, powerless to help. The youngest victims are the most vulnerable. After a quick check

that the heart is still beating, the doctor moves on to the next case. Those who did not survive are taken to be buried before the end of the day, in keeping with Islamic tradition.

In all, 92 people were killed in Khan Sheikhoun, among them 33 children. Entire families were laid to rest in a single grave.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): Pray to God, they are in heaven. You must accept God's will. To God we belong and to Him we shall return.

WARD (voice-over): Kusail al-Youssef (ph) lost more than 20 members of his family.

KUSAIL AL-YOUSSEF (PH), CHEMICAL ATTACK SURVIVOR (through translator): This is the grave of my cousin, Yasser. He is my friend and brother. His son, Amar, just four years old. What did he do to deserve this? His second child, Muhammed, may God have mercy on his soul.

And this is my brother, Mulham's (ph) grave. Abu Youssef. Abu Youssef, I am your brother. Abu Yousef, you left me all alone. May God protect you, my brother, and accept you as a martyr. Abu Youssef. Please God, answer me.

WARD (voice-over): In Syria now, the dead are considered lucky. Free from the unspeakable crimes of this brutal war and the agony of grief.


WARD: American, British, and French intelligence, as well as chemical weapons experts whom we have spoken with, all agree that this attack was almost certainly carried out by President Assad's forces. Samples taken from the scene have shown that the nerve agent was likely sarin gas, which has been outlawed since the end of the First World War. But in an interview shortly after the attack, Mr. Assad denied it had ever even taken place, calling it 100 percent a fabrication.

Clarissa Ward, CNN, London.


[18:57:24] CABRERA: The firing of FBI Director James Comey clearly has Washington in a tailspin, but what about Wall Street? Here's CNN Chief Business Correspondent Christine Romans. Christine.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN CHIEF BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Ana. After a week of turmoil for the Trump administration, investors are beginning to worry the President's agenda may be in jeopardy. The big question for Wall Street this week, does the fallout from firing FBI Director James Comey hurt the chances for tax reform?

We saw some nervousness in the stock market over the past few weeks. The Dow is up just slightly over the past month, but it's still within striking distance of record highs. And the so-called fear gauge on Wall Street is near a multidecade low. The other big story for investors this week, retail earnings. We'll

hear from Walmart, Home Depot, Target and GAP, plus a handful of smaller retail chains. Investors want to know how these stores are faring against Amazon and other online retailers and if Americans are feeling good enough to increase spending.

We saw a retail train wreck last week. Macy's, Kohl's, and Dillard's, all coming out with disappointing results. Sales at Macy's dropping 7.5 percent from a year ago. Its CEO says the department store did sell more women's shoes, jewelry, and furniture, but it is still struggling to compete online. The question now, can brick and mortar stores rebound or will there be more buyouts and bankruptcies? Ana.

CABRERA: Thank you, Christine, and happy Mother's Day to you. And happy Mother's Day to all of the moms out there.

In the spirit of this special day, President Donald Trump took a much softer tone than usual on Twitter. He tweeted this, "Wishing first lady Melania and all of the great mothers out there a wonderful day ahead with family and friends."

For her part, the first lady tweeted out, "Happy Mother's Day" along with a photo of her son, Baron, taking a picture of his mom, the former model.

Vice President Pence also tweeted photos of his family today saying, "Happy Mother's Day to all moms, especially to my own mom and to my wife, Karen, who has been an incredible mother to our three kids. Thank you all."

And I just have to take a quick moment to say hello to the special ones in my life, who have given me the blessing of motherhood. These are my two children, Jack and Maria. They have taught me so much about unconditional love and what really is most important in life. So on this Mother's Day, I want to honor them in addition to my own wonderful mom. That's why I love you guys.

You are live in the CNN NEWSROOM. Great to have you with us. I'm Ana Cabrera in New York.

We have some breaking news. A dire threat from North Korea directed at the U.S. coming just 24 hours after a ballistic missile test Kim Jong-un's regime is calling a success. The North says that test was to see if the missile could carry a large nuclear warhead.