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Russia Says Reports of Syria Chemical Attack a Hoax; Sarin Gas Survivor Speaks Out on Latest Syria Attack; Facebook CEO to Testify Before Congress. Aired 6-7p ET
Aired April 8, 2018 - 18:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.
[18:01:05] ANA CABRERA, CNN ANCHOR: You are live in the CNN NEWSROOM. I'm Ana Cabrera in New York. Thank you for being with us on this Sunday.
Breaking news this hour, the White House and the Kremlin exchanging threats and warnings over an alleged chemical attack in Syria. President Trump confronted Vladimir Putin today directly in a tweet for supporting Syria's president, a man Trump is calling "Animal Assad." And now Moscow is threatening serious consequences against the U.S. if it takes military action.
A number of activist groups say helicopters dropped barrel bombs on the town of Douma, unleashing toxic gas.
The images we are about to show you are disturbing. They are graphic. But they are important to see because the horror that is bombarding eastern Syria has become truly routine. Saturday's attack has killed at least 48 people and hundreds have symptoms of exposure. Suffocation, convulsions, seizures.
One video obtained by CNN shows a family who couldn't escape this attack. Their lifeless faces show the telltale signs of a chemical attack, foam around their mouths and noses.
While CNN cannot yet independently verify the authenticity of this footage, our Fred Pleitgen is the only Western reporter in Damascus today, searching for answers, for the truth about this horror that has happened.
Fred, Syrian officials say the rebels carried out this attack. What do we know?
FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: It's very difficult to get to the bottom of what exactly happened. It's interesting that we have gotten some more information, Ana. Remember yesterday we're talking about the fact that the opposition was saying that it was Syrian government helicopters that apparently all of a sudden were hovering over that area called Douma toward the east of Damascus, and that all of a sudden they dropped what was originally said to be barrel bombs. It seems as though now they're saying that it was canisters that then
released some sort of toxic gas as they say. And it was shortly after that was released that then all of a sudden people started to get respiratory problems in the vicinity of that. Apparently, hundreds of people started to get those problems and then many people later died in that -- those images that we've been showing that, of course, are very disturbing and very, very difficult to watch.
It's still unclear how high the death toll actually is. So far the number seems to be stabilizing at around 40, maybe a little bit more. But, again, the situation on the ground there still very, very fluid. Now you're absolutely right, the Syrian government says that it had nothing to do with this. I've been speaking to Syrian government sources and they said, yes, they had an offensive going on in around that area at that point in time.
They also say, however, that they were making so many advances against the rebels and they had that area encircled. There's been fighting going on around there for quite a bit that they did not need chemical weapons to move forward. They also say that the actual places where those chemicals were used was actually well away from the front line and they say it's simply not something that would have brought them any sort of advances as far as militarily is concerned.
But of course, one of the things that we do see, Ana, from those horrible images that we've been seeing is that once again, here in Syria, it is the civilians that are suffering most -- Ana.
CABRERA: It is just so heartbreaking to see the images there, Fred. Now we know the U.N. Security Council is calling an emergency meeting tomorrow and as we've seen before, there will likely be an international investigation into this attack.
But what is happening today in Douma? What's being done to help these people, to get the injured out to safety?
PLEITGEN: Yes. You know, it is very, very remarkable actually what's happening in Douma is that a day after all this took place, the Syrian government has actually essentially won that area back and that is thanks to the Russians, really.
What's going on right now as we speak is that there are buses that are leaving that area, some of them with rebel fighters in them that are going to other places in Syria that are still under control of the opposition. There are family members as well. The Russians are saying that as many as 48,000 people are essentially leaving those areas.
[18:05:06] There's also some people who are prisoners of the rebels who are now being bused into government-controlled areas. So essentially the rebels are going to be gone from that area. The civilians apparently can stay there in Douma and the Russians are going to guarantee all of this. And that's one of the things that I think is very important when you're talking about a possible international investigation. The Russians are going to be very much in control of who is in and out
of that area. So potentially they could let international investigators in if that's something that they want to do. But also, of course, very important to say they could also get medical aid to these people as well. There are a lot of international organizations like the U.N., like the Red Cross and the Red Crescent that would stand ready to go into those areas and provide medical support. We're going to see in the next couple of days if, in fact, that is going to happen -- Ana.
CABRERA: Frederik Pleitgen in Damascus. Thank you.
Let's go to the White House now. CNN's Abby Phillip is there for us.
Abby, the president is blaming "Animal Assad," Vladimir Putin for this attack as well as his predecessor Barack Obama, and promising there will be a, quote, "big price" to pay. Any indication what that price will be?
ABBY PHILLIP, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, that is a very good question, Ana. The one that aides here at the White House will be discussing both today and tomorrow.
President Trump on Twitter this morning really sharply criticized Assad and also his allies in Russia and Iran. And he said this about his predecessor, Barack Obama, who he has repeatedly said failed to enforce his red line and led to the situation that we are currently in.
Here's what Trump said. "President Obama had crossed his stated red line in the sand, the Syrian disaster would have ended long ago. Animal Assad would have been history." And now it seems that President Trump is now in a position where he himself has drawn a led line, saying that there would be a big price to pay for Assad as a result of this latest attack. And it comes just one year almost exactly to the day after the president announced air strikes targeting Assad's facilities after he perpetrated a similar chemical attack one year ago.
The president also has a little bit of an issue where in the last week, he's been talking about pulling the United States out of Syria. And now a lot of Republicans and Republican lawmakers are warning the president don't pull out yet, in part because they believe it could be that the president emboldened Assad by projecting what the United States might do in the region.
Take a listen to what the president's Homeland Security adviser said about what they might do and frankly the answers that we're getting from this administration are not particularly specific, but take a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TOM BOSSERT, WHITE HOUSE HOMELAND SECURITY ADVISER: So looking at --
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: So is it possible there will be another missile attack?
BOSSERT: I wouldn't take anything off the table. These are horrible photos. We're looking into the attack at this point. The State Department put out a statement last night and the president's senior National Security Cabinet had been talking with him and with each other all throughout the evening and this morning and myself included.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
PHILLIP: Well, all options are on the table, but, Ana, it's a real question of whether President Trump is willing to do what he did last year, again, and whether or not that will have any impact at all on the situation on the ground in Syria -- Ana.
CABRERA: All right. Abby Phillip at the White House. We know you're going to stay on top of the very latest developments as this unfolds.
Russia, meantime, is responding to the suspected chemical weapons attack with a warning today saying, quote, "It is necessary to warn once again that using farfetched and fabricated pretexts for a military intervention in Syria where Russian servicemen are deployed at the request of the legitimate government is absolutely unacceptable and can lead to the most serious consequences."
Joining us now, CNN military analyst General Mark Hertling, Robin Wright from the U.S. Institute for Peace and writer for the "New Yorker," and former director of counterterrorism at the National Security Council for President Obama, Nate Jones.
So, Nate, to you first, how will Russia's warning factor into whatever decision the president makes?
NATE JONES, FORMER NATIONAL SECURITY COUNCIL DIRECTOR OF COUNTERTERRORISM, OBAMA ADMINISTRATION: That's a good question, Ana. Thank you for having me on the show. I think how it will factor in is anybody's guess at this point. But I'll speak to how I think it should impact it. We've seen this kind of rhetoric from Russia before trying to preempt the U.S. action, trying to influence how we respond to these types of events. And while we have to factor it in and account for Russia's presence there, I don't think we can really let it dictate how we respond to this type of activity.
I think it does speak to the complexity of the situation on the ground in Syria and the complexity of how you handle that as president or as we'll find out tomorrow, as John Bolton enters his first day as National Security adviser. And that's one issue frankly where his rhetoric has diverged a bit from the president's, and that is how you handle Russia's unhelpful activities in Syria and other parts of the world, and as well as their election meddling.
[18:10:03] And so I think this will be -- excuse me, this will be an interesting moment for this president and this White House to figure out how they deal with Russia, not just in Syria, but also more broadly.
CABRERA: I'm hoping you can take us a little behind the scenes because you have been witness to these decisions and discussions on Syria including the decision by President Obama ultimately to not retaliate in a military sense against Assad when he used chemical weapons under his watch. Give us a window into what is happening inside the West Wing right now.
JONES: Yes. So I think, you know, these situations are actually quite unique where you're responding to something of this magnitude. And it puts a great deal of not just political pressure, but also pressure on the National Security Council, the National Security adviser, its staff, and the interagency to come up with options for the president to respond.
What is actually a very difficult and complicated situation to figure out how to deter not just the Assad regime from engaging in this behavior again in the future, but also how to deter the other players who are on the ground there. Again, Russia, Iran, and the influence that they're having with the Syrian regime. And so you have to come up with a multitude of responses to these kinds of activities and it creates a great deal of pressure.
There's a great deal of pressure to respond quickly before you have facts. And I think despite that kind of criticism, the important thing is to take a step back, try to be sober about your analysis, make sure you're looking at all options. And make sure that that fits into a bigger strategy to actually change this behavior.
CABRERA: Robin, as Nate points out, we don't have all the facts, we don't know everything about how this attack came to be. Who was responsible. But are you surprised to see an attack like this happen again? Clearly the U.S. strike last time around wasn't enough of a deterrent.
ROBIN WRIGHT, CONTRIBUTING WRITER, THE NEW YORKER: The last time around, the U.S. struck an air base that was open just a few days later, so the probability that this will have any serious impact on the Assad regime is negligible. That's the hard part. The idea that President Trump could make Assad pay a big price as he tweeted this morning is unlikely.
The reality is seven years into this war that President Assad has regained control of the majority of the Syrian countryside including all the major city. He's patched together -- together different parts of the country to make sure he governs what is a whole entity. The U.S. would have to engage in a sustained military effort that would last weeks, even months, to make much of a difference militarily.
The fact is that the Russians, the Iranians, their Hezbollah allies, are a much bigger presence. They can rebuild on the ground, they can provide air cover, and what the United States could do especially given the president's desire to withdraw from Syria, would probably be a little more than a temporary pin prick.
So it's -- it's heart wrenching what has happened in Douma. It is not the first time since the strike last year. The regime has repeatedly tested U.S. resolve on the issue of chemical weapons using chlorine, weaponized chlorine over and over and over, over the past year. This is the first time we've seen a more likely -- a likelihood of a response, but again the danger is that it wouldn't have much impact. Assad has basically won this war.
CABRERA: Again, I keep coming back to the words "big price to pay" the president tweeted this morning and saying definitively that this is a chemical attack, General Hertling. So take us through what might be happening inside the Pentagon right now as the Defense Department prepares options for the president to consider.
LT. GEN. MARK HERTLING, CNN MILITARY ANALYST: Well, I'm sure the Joint Chiefs of Staff have already prepared those options and have given different levels of kinetic strikes for the president to use if he so decides to use those. But that might be the problem in and of itself, Ana, and it's what we did last year, a year ago yesterday, when they conducted the 59 Tomahawk strike. That is a tactic. It is shooting something and not having a long-term strategy for what you want to accomplish.
If it's another one of those type of missions where it's just a kinetic strike against a series of targets, it's retaliatory response and it's not a strategy. So you'll see, unless something happens with Mr. Assad, with Mr. Putin, and with several other people in the area to change their behavior, more than just a strike which may destroy something on the ground, there has to be -- and Ambassador Haley is starting this tomorrow in the U.N. that there has to be much more diplomatic effort toward this and probably a whole lot fewer tweets.
You know, this has to be a face-to-face or verbal-to-verbal and not messages sent over the airways for both Russia to pick up what Mr. Trump is saying, and for us to pick up what Russia's saying which is what's been happening all day. It's got to go beyond just a kinetic strike or we'll see ourselves in this position again in a few weeks or a few months just like we did from last year.
[18:15:06] CABRERA: Nate, I want to ask you about John Bolton because he is the new National Security adviser. He takes the reins tomorrow alongside the president. He's famously hawkish. He's been an advocate for preemptive strikes. Do you think his new place in the Trump orbit, so to speak, increases the likelihood of a strike or something beyond what we saw last time around?
JONES: You know, I think it does. You know, we've seen him express hawkish views in the past, as you said. He appears to be a very ideological individual. What we don't know is whether he and the president are actually aligned on this stuff. You know, I think you have people making assumptions that because he selected John Bolton, because he agrees with the views he's expressed publicly in a political or a media context in the past, that he must agree with his views.
But I think as we've seen with the president in the past on a number of different issues, it's not even clear that he always knows what he thinks and where he's going, and so I think whether or not John Bolton can influence him is still an open question but it's certainly a concern to have him -- the last person talking to the president before he makes his decision. CABRERA: General, obviously any military action would have to take
into account the Russian troops on the ground in Syria, Russia threatening again some kind of serious consequence should the U.S. and other members of the international community take military action. So how does that fit into any response and the strategy in terms of being surgical in any response?
HERTLING: Well, as a one-off, it would be very challenging to do that, Ana, and remember, the majority of Russian troops in Syria are mercenaries. That's been admitted, when we struck just a few weeks ago and killed over 300 of the Russian so-called troops, there was not a whole lot of word back from Putin about that strike. So he admits that they are there -- many of those mercenaries are there illegally. They've been doing things not only in Syria, but also in Ukraine and in other places in the world without the knowledge of the Russian people.
So you're talking about not just the United States doing something, but the requirement for a coalition to approach it militarily and diplomatically, to tell Mr. Putin what he is in for if this is going to continue. How he can't continue to support Mr. Assad when they're using, you know, this kind of terrorist attack against their own civilians and it's got to be an international body.
It just can't be American soldiers on the ground conducting an operation because you have to define what you're trying to do. And what you're trying to do in Syria is we've seen so far ambassador -- I'm sorry, Secretary Tillerson had a directly opposite response of the president just last week before he was fired about what the end state was in Syria.
So the administration has to get their act together in terms of what they're attempting to accomplish in that part of the world with respect to Mr. Assad and with respect to Mr. Putin.
CABRERA: Robin, as you mentioned, President Trump as recently as this past week was talking about getting the U.S. out of the Syria conflict. And Senator John McCain says that lack of commitment and him acknowledging he wants to pull out may have emboldened Assad and his allies. Do you agree?
WRIGHT: I think there's no question that President Assad in Syria and his allies in Moscow and Tehran do feel that the United States is not invested long term, and it's basically ceding the future of Syria to the local forces. What has been our rivals for the last seven years.
There's no question that they will feel more powerful and the fact they can see that the United States will withdraw its 2,000 troops within five or six months, the idea is by October, and this country that has been the geostrategic center of the Middle East will basically fall under the influence of the Russians.
I think the prospect that challenging President Putin, calling for a change in Russia's behavior, given the growing tensions between Moscow and Washington, very unlikely to have any impact. After all, the new sanctions against Russia have had very little impact in changing Russia's behavior, whether it's in Ukraine or poisoning former spies in Britain or meddling in the U.S. election. And I think this only will ratchet up the kind of tensions between the two countries.
CABRERA: Nate, quickly, if you will, given your connection directly to President Obama, his administration, having served during the time that Obama made that controversial decision not to make military action. President Trump tweeting about that today blaming Obama.
Does Obama deserve some of the blame for not punishing Assad when he used chemical weapons and ultimately leading to where we are today?
[18:20:01] JONES: I think, as someone suggested earlier, I think, you know, playing the domestic political blame game is probably not worth the president's energy or the energy of his National Security staff. I think what we have to do is come up with a strategy to actually deter the type of activity we're seeing the Syrian regime and its allies on the ground there engage in. And I think that as the general said earlier, I think that has to be more than just military action. A lot of people like to look back and say had we acted militarily earlier, things would have turned out differently. I think that's a guessing game that --
CABRERA: Do you have any regrets?
JONES: I mean, you know, I wasn't personally involved in the Syria decisions at the time, but certainly, you know, you can't help but look at the photos and the videos coming out of Syria today and not feel like you wish you could have done more. Even as someone who wasn't directly involved in it or hasn't been for the last five-plus years you sort of -- you have to look at that and say, you know, as a human being, that you wish you could have done something to change it.
And I'm sure everybody feels that way who's been involved in this directly or on the margins of it over the years, but again I think it's -- it's a little bit simplistic to look at a point in time and point back and say had we acted militarily in a particular way, things would have come out differently because I think what we saw again last year is that even military action that was reasonably aggressive but certainly we could do more, military action alone is unlikely to solve this problem.
CABRERA: OK. Nate Jones --
JONES: It has to be part of a bigger strategy that puts pressure on them.
CABRERA: Nate Jones, Mark Hertling, General, and Robin Wright, thank you for joining us.
HERTLING: Thank you.
JONES: Thank you.
CABRERA: Immigration judges getting a little surprise from Attorney General Jeff Sessions. New quotas for judges to finish immigration cases.
Coming up next, a prominent immigration judge says the quotas aimed at speeding up the courts just won't work.
You're live in the CNN NEWSROOM.
[18:26:04] CABRERA: Texas National Guard members are now arriving at the state's border with Mexico. And this is happening four days after President Trump's controversial call to send troops to the border to help fight illegal immigration. About 250 National Guard troops are expected to be stationed at the Texas-Mexico border by Monday. And also this week, the Justice Department rolled out some new case quotas for immigration judges.
The department says it will evaluate immigration judges on how many cases they close and how fast they hear those cases.
Let's talk it over with Judge Dana Leigh Marks. She's been a San Francisco immigration judge since 1987. And she's also president emeritus of the National Association of Immigration Judges.
So, Judge Marks, thanks for being here. What is your reaction to this new quota idea for your work?
JUDGE DANA LEIGH MARKS, PRESIDENT EMERITUS, NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF IMMIGRATION JUDGES: Thank you so much for having me. Production quotas are completely inappropriate for judges. These cases are dealing with people's lives and the reason why we have an overwhelming backlog at the court is not because judges are not working hard enough. The reason is because we haven't been given adequate resources and because our courts are placed in the Department of Justice which is a political arm of the government, rather than being the place where a neutral court should be housed.
CABRERA: But the Department of Justice is supposed to be independent of the White House even though it's part of the administration. Do you think the Trump administration and Attorney General Jeff Sessions in particular are politicizing the immigration court system with this move?
MARKS: We have been arguing for an independent immigration court for more than 20 years because despite the fact that we've had varying administrations, some more intentionally than others, everyone has been trying to put their finger on the scales of justice.
CABRERA: In what way?
MARKS: Not by telling judges how to do their cases, by deciding which cases should be heard first, by putting pressure on judges to move cases more quickly. Those are things which do not happen in judicial courts.
We're in administrative court and that leaves us vulnerable to those kinds of politically-based pressures and that's what we're experiencing now.
CABRERA: So you do feel like there is political motivation behind this new order?
MARKS: That's correct, but this is not unusual. We felt that under many administrations. Under the Obama administration when there was this surge of Central American families in 2014. We definitely felt that same pressure and the same involvement with our dockets by rearranging the dockets instead of letting judges do what they do best using their judicial expertise to decide which cases to decide and when.
The introduction of production quotas and deadlines for the judges just confuses the issue more because it means that judges are now a third party in the process. We've got a personal interest as to keeping our jobs. And whether or not we are handling cases in a way that our boss is going to approve of. And that's highly problematic.
CABRERA: OK. So let's talk about the potential solution. Immigration courts we know do have a backlog of hundreds of thousands of cases. What could be done to make this process more streamlined and move along faster?
MARKS: A very simple two-step process. Number one is, yes, we need more resources. We probably need to double the number of immigration judges that we currently have. There are over 700,000 pending cases in immigration courts and about 335 immigration judges in courtrooms nationwide. But the most important change that is necessary and necessary now is for Congress.
We need structural reform. The immigration courts should be taken out of the Department of Justice and treated like the tax courts were years ago they were part of the Internal Revenue Service. Later, they were made Article 1 courts, which structurally, from a legal point of view, gives the judges the protection they need. And as an Article 1 restructuring, that immigration judges need.
The American Bar Association, the Federal Bar Association, the American Immigration Lawyers Association, all these expert lawyers agree. And so do we, the National Association of Immigration Judges.
We need to reform the court now to stop these overwhelming pressures from adversely impacting the way we do our jobs in court.
ANA CABRERA, CNN ANCHOR: Judge Dana Leigh Marks, thank you so much for your time.
MARKS: Thank you.
CABRERA: Coming up, rare rebuke. President Trump calls out Putin by name, putting blame on him and Russia for, quote, Animal Assad in Syria. We'll tell you how Moscow is now responding. Stay right there.
(COMMERCIAL BREAK) [18:35:32] CABRERA: President Trump calling out Russian leader Vladimir Putin by name in a tweet for the very first time, blaming him in part for the suspected chemical attack this weekend on civilians in Syria.
This from the President -- many dead including women and children in mindless chemical attack in Syria. Area of atrocity is on lockdown and encircled by Syrian army, making it completely inaccessible to outside world. President Putin, Russia, and Iran, are responsible for backing Animal Assad. Big price to pay. Open area immediately for medical help and verification.
Officials in Moscow are hearing President Trump's words. Our senior international correspondent, Nic Robertson, is there. Nic?
NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR: Well, Russia seems to be taking very seriously what President Trump is saying, that there will be a big price to pay.
The Foreign Ministry essentially calling the allegations of a chemical strike in Syria and Douma, calling them a hoax. Blaming NGOs like the White Helmets, accusing them essentially of being terrorists rather than actually helping the injured civilians on the ground.
And the statement goes on to remind the United States that Russia has its own service people in Syria, invited by the government, working on the ground at the invitation of the Syrian government to help the Syrian government.
It goes on to indicate that if there were to be any action, there would be very serious consequences.
The statement continues like this -- we have warned of such dangerous provocations many times before, meaning these allegations of the chemical strikes. The purpose of these false conjectures, which are without basis, is to shield the terrorists and the irreconcilable radical opposition, which reject a political settlement while trying to justify possible military strikes from outside.
So the Foreign Ministry here warning of serious consequences if there were to be, it seems, some sort of follow-through from the United States.
And the Chairman of the International Affairs Committee in the Upper House of the Parliament here is saying that these allegations in Syria about a chemical strike are sort of on a par, if you will, with the claims of poisoning of the former Russian spy, Sergei Skripal, in Salisbury in England over the past month or so, essentially saying that the international narrative is, blame Russia.
So concern here and very strong pushback. Nic Robertson, CNN, Moscow.
CABRERA: Thank you, Nic.
My next guest actually knows what it is like to be poisoned by sarin gas. I will talk to a Syrian refugee about the latest attack in his country and what action he'd like to see from the United States.
You're live in the CNN NEWSROOM. Stay with us.
[18:38:22] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
CABRERA: We are continuing to cover breaking news out of Syria, reports of a chemical weapons attack allegedly carried out by the Syrian government against its own people.
The photos and videos are incredibly heartbreaking. They are graphic. We're trying to show them as sparingly as possible, but it's also important that you understand just how inhumane this attack was.
And that's why I want you to meet our next guest. He is Syrian and he survived a sarin attack in 2013, which he wrote about for "The New York Times."
And part of it reads, when I reached the street, I froze. Dozens of men, women, and children writhed on the ground. Others screamed out for doctors, wailing, praying, pleading for their beloved fallen to breathe again. I screamed, too.
And then I noticed a little boy lying in the dirt. The boy's face had turned grotesque shades of red, yellow, and blue. His eyes were glassy. White froth oozed from his mouth. His throat grated as he struggled to breathe.
I took off his shirt and tried to blow air into his mouth. I pressed against his chest and tried to pump the white poison from his lungs. Nothing helped.
Kassem Eid is joining us now. Wow, Kassem, your words, they get me. The Russian -- Syrian government is calling the reports of this latest attack a hoax and fabrications.
You have seen the pictures now and the videos coming out of Douma. You have survived a chemical attack. Do you have any doubt that that's what this was?
KASSEM EID, SURVIVED SYRIA CHEMICAL ATTACK IN 2013: Thank you for having me. We've been dealing with Russian and regime propaganda since the very first day of the Syrian revolution back in 2011.
Actually, we've been living under propaganda and dictatorship for more than 40 years in Syria. They always deny the atrocities they commit even though we used to live stream some of those atrocities.
Putin and Assad are war criminals, and everyone who stands with them should be also considered a war criminal. I don't know how many times I have to repeat my story, how many times I have to write about it, how many times I have to throw up and go back and talk to people again about how does it feel like to survive chemical weapons. [18:45:13] I'm speechless. I have friends in Douma. I've been
talking to them, but I couldn't talk to them since Friday, since the beginning of the recent atrocities in Douma. It's hell on earth. I don't know how anyone can just look the other way or say that this is too graphic to watch.
I know it's too graphic to watch, but it's real. Those people are real. Those children who suffocated are real. They have names. They have fathers and mothers, who most of them died between their mother's hands or father's hands.
How can the war be so cruel and blind when it comes about the lives of Syrian people? More than 700,000 people got killed. It's not just the chemical weapons. Every time we draw a red line in the sand just for chemical weapons, what about the rest of the people who got killed with bombs and airplanes?
For how long should we just wait and watch and see Assad and Putin massacre and starve and bomb and rape millions of people in Syria? For how long are we going to let Iran send their militias and fuel this extremist propaganda, extremist agenda, in the Middle East?
We have ISIS and Iran. They're both as bad as it gets when it comes about extremism. They are creating the vacuum for ISIS. The power vacuum for ISIS to come and tell people, look, the West doesn't care about you, America doesn't care about you, we are here to help you. And this is how ISIS managed to recruit people.
And now we're doing the same mistakes again. I'm truly disappointed by President Trump. He made big promises, but he didn't fill out with any of his promises.
Last year, I was on CNN talking about the Khan Shaykhun massacre. I was praising his strike against Assad.
CABRERA: Right. Right.
EID: I was begging him to strike before. But all what we got was a limited strike after they informed the Russians they are going to strike. They didn't continue to pressure the regime. Since last April --
CABRERA: So, Kassem, may I ask --
EID: -- more than 10,000 people died in Syria.
CABRERA: May I ask you this question then because I know you've testified before Samantha Powers. We know the United Nations Security Council will be holding a meeting tomorrow. What would you say to Nikki Haley and to other leaders who are meeting to decide the international response?
EID: Well, first of all, I would just like to ask first and before anything else, President Obama to apologize to the Syrian people and to the American people because he lied to our faces back in 2014 when he said that he took out Assad chemical weapons. More than 100 chemical attacks happened since 2014 until now. One
hundred attacks. So we -- President Obama owes us an apology.
I met with Samantha Powers several times, and she lied to my face when she was telling me that she disagrees with President Obama's policy. But later on after she left office, she's touring the country and saying how good and how amazing they did when it comes about human rights, all the works they've been doing --
CABRERA: Kassem, we have about 30 seconds left for this segment.
CABRERA: So I just want to --
EID: I will just give --
CABRERA: -- give you the chance to talk about what you see as the solution and what you think needs to happen now.
EID: I will just say this simply, two months ago, I went to -- in February, I went to Nikki's -- Haley's -- Ambassador Haley's office, and I met with her staffers.
And I informed them that my friends on the ground in Syria are telling me that there might be a possible large-scale chemical weapons attack. They completely ignored me. And this is not the first time I warned U.S. government about what's going on.
I would like to see President Trump strike all Assad airports and show him that those days are over. Otherwise, I will just ask, like -- with all due respect, ask him to just keep his mouth shut and not talk about big promises when he cannot deliver.
CABRERA: OK. Kassem Eid, thank you for sharing your story with us. We feel your pain. I'd love to have you back and talk with us again when your memoir about life in Syria is published this summer. Thanks again for being here.
The Syrian people have endured seven years of war now. For information on how you can help, log on to cnn.com/impact. We'll be right back.
[18:49:52] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
CABRERA: After a roller-coaster ride on Wall Street, what can investors expect this week? CNN's Alison Kosik has your "Before the Bell" report. Hi, Alison.
ALISON KOSIK, CNN GENERAL ASSIGNMENT CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Ana. Volatility is the new normal on Wall Street. Stocks kicked off the second quarter with wild swings. Every day seemed to bring a new headline about tariffs, escalating fears of a trade war with China.
The headline risk isn't going away, but this week big tech is also in focus. Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg testifies twice before Congress. Lawmakers are expected to grill him about user privacy.
[18:55:04] Facebook now says 87 million users may have had their information shared with data from Cambridge Analytica. That's up from the 50 million users originally estimated.
Shares of Facebook are down more than 10 percent since the data privacy scandal erupted.
Corporate earnings could also provide direction to the stock market this week. On Friday, JPMorgan Chase, Wells Fargo, and Citigroup all released first-quarter results.
In New York, I'm Alison Kosik.
CABRERA: Coming up, live in the CNN NEWSROOM, reports of an unconscionable chemical attack in Syria, prompting President Trump to publicly attack Vladimir Putin by name for the first time. A live report on the heightened tensions between the world's two nuclear superpowers next.
[19:00:04] CABRERA: You are live in the CNN NEWSROOM. I'm Ana Cabrera in New York.
We have heartbreaking breaking news. A big price to pay. Horrific suspected chemical attack in Syria, prompting President Trump to --