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Chemical Attack Killed Dozens in Syria; Collision Took 15 Hockey Member's Lives; Israeli and Palestinian Violence Escalates; Lone Wolf Plowed Restaurant Customers; Hungary Votes; Social Media Controversy; Trump White House. Aired 3-4a ET

Aired April 9, 2018 - 03:00   ET



GEORGE HOWELL, CNN ANCHOR: Civilians in the crosshairs in Syria. World powers now reacting to the latest apparent chemical attack there.

ROSEMARY CHURCH, CNN ANCHOR: And U.S. President Donald Trump says there is a big price to pay for that attack. Now he and his advisers are planning their next move.

HOWELL: Plus a town in mourning. Remembering the victims of a crash involving a bus packed with young hockey players.

We are live at CNN world headquarters in Atlanta. We want to welcome our viewers here in the United States and all around the world. I'm George Howell.

CHURCH: And I'm Rosemary Church. This is CNN Newsroom.

HOWELL: Around the world, good day to you.

We begin with the growing outrage over an alleged chemical attack in Syria. The U.N. Security Council set to meet in the coming hours, this after dozens of civilians were reportedly killed in a gas attack in Douma on Saturday.

We want to warn you, some of the images that we're to be show you, they are graphic but important to see.

The Syrian government and its allies denied they're responsible for a chemical attack. The U.S. president doesn't seem convinced. On Twitter, he said there will be a big price to pay.

CHURCH: Mr. Trump may have been reacting to videos like the one you're about to see. Again, a warning, it is graphic. This video appears to show some of the victims lying dead on the ground. Many of them children. There is foam on their mouths which is potential evidence of a chemical attack.

Mr. Trump will meet with his top advisers in the coming hours, and they will have to decide how the U.S. responds to scenes like ones you've just saw. Let's bring in our senior international correspondent Ben Wedeman

following the story in neighboring Beirut, Lebanon. Ben, so let's talk about the Syrian media report of a missile strike in Homs province. Are you hearing any indication of who might be behind this or what actually happened there?

BEN WEDEMAN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, starting with what happened, according to the Syrian Arab news agency some time overnight there was a missile strike on the T-4 air base, which is about 100 kilometers northeast of Damascus. According to the Syrian news agency, there were casualties and fatalities.

The agency also claimed that eight of the missiles that were involved in the attack were shot down by Syrian defenses.

Now it's important to keep in mind that the T-4 base was where on the 10th of February an Iranian drone was launched that went into Israeli territory. The Israelis shot down that drone and then carried out strikes on that air base, the T-4 where there are Iranian personnel. And one of their F-16s on when it was on the way back to Israeli airspace was shot down by the Syrians.

Now one interesting thing we've just seen is that Avigdor Lieberman, the Israeli defense minister has come out with a statement saying that the Israeli air force has returned to operating in Syrian airspace. Now he didn't directly claim that Israel was behind this particular strike on the T-4 base.

But it's important to keep in mind over the last few years, Israeli forces, the air force has conducted its believed more than 100 air strikes in Syria, although this morning the Israeli defense ministry did deny comment on reports that Israeli forces or Israel was behind this strike on the T-4 base. George?

HOWELL: All right. Thank you for the background on that, Ben. Getting back to these images that we saw, these atrocities quite frankly of people, women, children, fathers dead on the ground from beings apparently gassed to death, what are you hearing about the situation in Douma now and the agreement as well to allow for an evacuation for rebels and civilians to clear that area?

WEDEMAN: We understand, George, that there has been an agreement worked out between the Russians and the Jaysh al-Islam, the army of Islam, the Saudi-backed faction that has been in control of Douma for quite some time whereby fighters and their families -- and we're talking about tens of thousands of people, have -- will be evacuated via bus from Douma to northern Syria to Jarablus, which is a town on the Turkish Syrian border in more central Syria under Turkish control.

[03:05:04] So, if this deal goes ahead and is completed, then we can fairly say that the eastern Ghouta which held out against the government in Damascus for years is now completely under the control or shall be shortly of the government of Bashar al Assad. George?

HOWELL: Look, also we're hearing the United States and France both promising a strong and joint response. And in just a few hours' time, the U.N. Security Council will hold an emergency meeting on Monday.

But given Russia's firm support for Syria and the failed track record of the U.N. to make much of a difference in this conflict, what impact to you think the international community can really make at this point?

WEDEMAN: Not much, George. Certainly even, for instance, a year ago, after that chemical attack in Khan Sheikhoun in northern Syria that left 70 people killed and very soon after words President Trump ordered 59 cruise missiles be fired at a Syrian air base near Homs. Nothing happened. Nothing changed.

The international community by and large at best has been able to do symbolic gestures. But in terms of events on the ground in Syria, they've been able to produce a lot of hot air, a lot of threats. But nothing concrete to change the course of events.

And the course, of events at this point indicate that the Syrian government with the help of Russia, Iran and Hezbollah is steadily gaining ground against its opponents in many parts of the country. There is still 2,000 U.S. troops within Syria. But President Trump has made it clear he wants them out within the next six months. George?

HOWELL: Ben Wedeman, thank you so much for the reporting. We'll stay in touch with you.

CHURCH: And the White House says President Trump spoke with French President Emmanuel Macron about the suspected chemical attack in Syria. Both leaders agree the Assad regime must be held accountable for its human rights abuses.

HOWELL: The reported chemical attack on civilians may pull Mr. Trump back into Syria's civil war just days after he said he wanted to withdraw U.S. troops.

Abby Philip has details for us.

ABBY PHILIP, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: President Trump finds himself once again responding to an alleged chemical weapons attack perpetrated by the Assad regime in Syria. This time the president is lashing out at Vladimir Putin, Russia, and Iran for enabling the Assad regime. But he is also criticizing his predecessor, Barack Obama. He said this about Obama's red line that he failed to enforce.

He said if President Obama had crossed his stated red line in the sand, the Syria disaster would have been ended long ago. Animal Assad would have been history.

But in 2013, President Trump actually warned the president against enforcing that red line. And now it seems that he has drawn one of his own. What that big price to pay will be is unclear. And here is what homeland security adviser Tom Bossert said about the options available to President Trump.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: So is it possible there will be another missile attack?

TOM BOSSERT, UNITED STATES HOMELAND SECURITY ADVISOR: I couldn't take anything off the table. These are horrible photos. We're looking into the attack at this point.


PHILIP: The National Security Council is expected to meet on the Syrian issue on Monday, as is the U.N. Security Council. But President Trump is coming into the situation having already said in recent weeks that he wants to pull the United States out of Syria altogether.

He also does not have his full national security team in place. The president is still waiting for his CIA director to be confirmed, and also is waiting for his secretary of state to be confirmed as well. His new national security adviser John Bolton, his first day on the job is today.

Abby Philip, CNN, White House.

CHURCH: Meantime, Moscow is calling the reports of a chemical attack a hoax. A statement from the foreign ministry said Syrian government troops are liberating civilians from the control of terrorists and militants.

HOWELL: That statement goes on to warn this. "Using far-fetched and fabricated pretexts for 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."

CHURCH: And for more on this we are joined by Amy Greene in Paris. She is an American political science researcher and a professor at Sciences Po. Thank you so much for being with us.


CHURCH: Now, in a tweet, President Trump warned Russia and Syria and Iran there is a big price to pay for the alleged chemical weapons attack in Douma. But how political -- politically sensitive could this prove to be, coming just days after Mr. Trump said he wants U.S. troops out of Syria?

[03:10:07] GREENE: It's a tricky proposal. The U.S., whether it's Donald Trump or Barack Obama before him has a difficult time getting out of the Middle East simply put. There always seems to be that next event that draws the United States back in. You know, Barack Obama famously stepped back from the red line that he said was back in 2013 I think where he said that a chemical attack would cause the United States to intervene.

And yet, even at that point, he decided that the United States intervention wouldn't necessarily guarantee a better or more favorable outcome than simply, you know, pursuing the policy of propping up the opposition as much as they could to maintain a stalemate with the regime. So essentially Donald Trump faces this difficult, you know, this

difficult parameter as well, which is announcing that he wants the U.S. out. But nonetheless, this allegation to counter the regime and its chemical attack.

But, again, you know, while the president, you know, we saw that he launched strikes about a year ago. And similar circumstances. We see these isolated incidents, these isolated responses. But nonetheless, it doesn't find itself firmly anchored within a firm U.S. strategy in the region.

CHURCH: Of course, we know that President Trump's national security council will meet Monday, just in a few hours from now, in fact, led by his new national security adviser John Bolton. First day on the job for him. How might his presence influence the outcome here when it comes to choosing a military response on the part of the United States?

GREENE: It's a very interesting sequence of events in effect because John Bolton has, you know, a notoriously bellicose reputation. He is in fact sort of feared in a way from both the Democrats and the Republicans who find him to be ever so eager to start the machines of war. So it will be interesting to see what influence he has on the president.

What's very fascinating to watch is whether it's with the question of a trade war with China, whether it's responding in Syria, you see an American president who seems to be animated by anger. And so that could be anger on a home front. It could be anger in terms of diplomacy.

The president wants to act, sort of respond because he's -- there is an indignation there is anger. And so it will be interesting to see if John Bolton plays into that, or he's able to, in fact act as a fair broker among the different expertise of the defense and the intelligence agencies, to propose a palliative options to the president.

But certainly history, such as the buildup to the Iraq invasion in 2003 would indicate that you do have a new national security adviser who isn't fearful of proposing the military option. And of course we've seen him propose the military option with Korea, Iran as well, and suggesting that the United States act preemptively.

So in a case like Syria where you have a clear chemical attack and a United States president willing to use military force to respond, that will be interesting to see if, you know, if this dynamic of bellicosity goes to its full fruition.

CHURCH: Right. We're mentioning too for the first time we saw President Trump call out Russia's Vladimir Putin by name for backing Syria's President Bashar al-Assad. What did you make of that suggest shift in how he deals with Mr. Putin? What might that signal do you think?

GREENE: It signals to me a form of exasperation perhaps. Also this anger once again that I mentioned. You know, the problem with the United States in the situation in Syria is that across the way, you have Russia. So what happens when the American planes encounter Russian planes?

You know, so, the problem is essentially what do you do in order to punish the Syrian regime knowing that you have Russia behind it. So, of course it is an alarming shift to see the American president push back against his Russian leader, his Russian counterpart I should say.

And of course, you know, we see that the president has been criticized for being too light on Vladimir Putin. So this is in fact a particularly easy way to call him out by name without necessarily surprising anyone on the domestic scene.

It could throw a bone to the American political scene at home in order to help dismantle this image of proximity or in any case apologizing to the Russian leader without any particular consequences knowing that the United States is looking to intervene anyway.

CHURCH: Amy Greene, we appreciate your analysis. Thanks for joining us live from Paris.

GREENE: Thank you, Rosemary.

HOWELL: Next here on Newsroom, a community coming together in grief. This after a deadly bus crash in Canada. We'll have details for you ahead.

CHURCH: Plus, the beefed up military presence of the U.S./Mexico border. Details on the mission for National Guard troops, when we come back.


HOWELL: Welcome back to CNN Newsroom. In Saskatchewan, Canada, a close-knit community is in mourning after a deadly bus crash that sent shock waves across the nation.

CHURCH: Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau attended the emotional vigil for the 15 people who died after a tractor-trailer collided with the bus, carrying a junior hockey team.

HOWELL: Fourteen people were injured. All the people killed were members of the Humboldt Broncos. And among them, 20-year-old Logan Schatz, the team captain.

CHURCH: Twenty-year-old Jaxon Joseph. He is the son of former National Hockey League player Chris Joseph. And head coach Darcy Haugan.

HOWELL: Canadian police say they are investigating all aspects of this crash to figure out exactly what happened there.

CHURCH: Israeli forces and Palestinian protesters clashed for the second straight weekend over Israel's block indicate along the Gaza border. HOWELL: CNN's Oren Liebermann has the very latest for us on this


OREN LIEBERMANN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: There's no question a border between Israel and Gaza it remains tense after a second Friday of widespread protests along the security fence. Sunday afternoon the Israeli military fire aid cross the border after they say three Palestinians crossed the fence into Israel, then crossed back into Gaza.

[03:20:05] That gives you an idea of how sensitive the border area is right now. The most talked about story throughout the weekend has been the killing of Palestinian journalist Yasser Murtaja. Murtaja was wearing his press vest when he was shot and killed by Israeli forces on Friday according to the Palestinian ministry of health.

Hundreds attended his funeral including the head of Hamas in Gaza. Mustaja's death and eight others killed on Friday has amplified, of course, of international criticism against Israel, accusing Israel of using disproportionate and indiscriminate force against Palestinian protesters in Gaza.

Reporters Without Borders, an international media watchdog said it's clear that Israel fired intentionally at Mustaja.

In response to CNN the Israeli military said it does not intentionally target journalists. The military said quote, "The circumstances in which journalist were allegedly hit by the IDF fire are not familiar with the IDF and are being looked into."

Israel, meanwhile, holds Hamas responsible for orchestrating the violence along the Gaza border. Israeli officials have said those who were shot were attempting to carry out attacks or breach the security fence.

Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman said there were no innocent civilians. He called the demonstrations a terror parade. Since the widespread demonstration began at the end of March, 31 Gazans have been killed by IDF forces according to the Palestinian ministry of health. Hundreds more have been injured by a live fire.

PLO official Hanan Ashrawi slammed Israel's use of live fire in response to widespread Gaza protests, calling for international investigation into Israel's actions.

Obviously, the situation remain very fluid now but already we're expecting more protests this coming Friday. That's true for every Friday from now until mid-May. Even if the numbers were down from the previous week, each of these protests still has the potential to spark a much bigger conflict.

Oren Liebermann, CNN, Jerusalem.

CHURCH: A truck slammed into a crowd in Muenster, Germany over the weekend. HOWELL: Two people were killed, 20 others were injured when a driver

plowed into a restaurant's open terrace and fatally shot himself on Saturday. Investigators now say that he acted alone.

CNN's Erin McLaughlin is in Muenster following the investigation.

ERIN MCLAUGHLIN, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Police still do not know why this happened why a man acting alone plowed a van into a busy cafe bringing horror to a sunny Saturday afternoon. Police searches his van and his homes in east and West Germany.

Searches yielding few clues other than firecrackers, gas canisters, and fake guns. They say they're chasing multiple leads. So far, no links to terror. No evidence of any political motive.

German media reports the suspect had a history of mental illness. Authorities say they're investigating that possibility.


HAJO KUHLISCH, CHIEF OF POLICE, MUNSTER POLICE DEPARTMENT (through translator): We cannot say that everything is finished. But what is very clear from the apartment search and the other related vehicles, also a container is that there is no indication of political background. We're assuming that the motives and causes are with the perpetrator himself.


MCLAUGHLIN: Authorities have yet to name the attacker other than to say he is 48 years old, German, lives in the area and had a record of petty crime. Police say that at the end of last month, he e-mailed his neighbor, making vague references to suicidal thoughts, but nothing to suggest a potential attack.

At least two people lost their lives in the attack. A 51-year-old woman and a 65-year-old man, 20 injured in this sleepy cathedral city shaken.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: One couldn't believe it. One had always felt, this cozy Muenster, everything happened all over the world, but we are safe here.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: People still are, you know, fighting for their life in the hospitals. And I think it's all these kind of things you feel with the people, you say my God, we could have sit here.


MCLAUGHLIN: Everyone here is now left with one simple question. Why? With the attacker dead of an apparent suicide, some fear we may never know for sure.

Erin McLaughlin, CNN, Muenster, Germany. HOWELL: Erin, thank you so much.

The U.S. National Guard troops are moving into a place to basically follow the president's promise to seal up the southern border with Mexico.

CHURCH: Kaylee Hartung reports on the role they will fill alongside border agents.

KAYLEE HARTUNG, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Two hundred fifty National Guard troops will be in place in their operational roles along the Texas and Mexico border. Many of these troops arriving over the course of the weekend, though, were planners.

They walked right into meetings with the Department of Homeland Security, Customs and Border Patrol agents to discuss the resources that needed to be allocated in different areas of the border and determine the operational roles that the rest of the troops would be falling into.

[03:24:58] At this point we have no pictures to show you of troops lined up on the border. What we can show you, a look inside some of these meetings that were taking place over the weekend. Again, discussing the resources needed to be allocated.

Handshakes shown through various military Twitter feeds, showing these border patrol agents welcoming National Guard troop leaders to their command post.

Now there is an important point to be made here, that federal troops cannot be involved in any law enforcement capacity. So you won't see National Guard troops apprehending anyone illegally trying to enter the United States. Rather they will be taking on roles that will allow the Customs and Border Patrol agents to do their jobs better out in the field.

These National Guard troops will be taking over desk jobs. They'll be doing intelligence gathering and surveillance. Again, to allow border patrol agents more flexibility and visibility to get out in the field and secure the U.S. border.

CHURCH: Thank you so much for that. We'll take a short break here. But still to come, more on the alleged chemical weapons attack in Syria. We will hear from CNN military analyst retired lieutenant colonel Rick Francona.

HOWELL: Plus, activists fear for Hungary's democracy after another right wing electoral victory. Ahead, we'll discuss what the European Union can do about it.


CHURCH: Welcome back to CNN Newsroom. I'm Rosemary Church.

HOWELL: And I'm George Howell with the headlines we're following for you this hour. CHURCH: Hungary's right wing Prime Minister Viktor Orban will secure

his third consecutive term in office, and critics fear he could weaken Hungary's democracy each more.

[03:30:00] Most of the votes from Sunday's election have now been counted. His ruling coalition is projected to keep a super majority in parliament.

HOWELL: The Israeli air force said instructed a Hamas target in Gaza early Monday, this after three Palestinians breached the border fence and planted explosives. Israel claims a similar breach happened Sunday as well. This all comes after days of deadly clashes over Israel's blockade along the Gaza border.

CHURCH: A small town in Saskatchewan, Canada remembered the victims of a deadly bus crash with the vigil Sunday. Fifteen people died when a tractor-trailer collided with a bus carrying a junior hockey team. Fourteen other people were injured. Canadian police are investigating the cause of that crash.

HOWELL: The president of the United States is condemning the Syrian government and its allies after an alleged chemical weapons attack that took place in Douma. A warning. Some of the images you're about to see are very disturbing.

Dozens of civilians reportedly killed in Saturday's alleged attack. Syria's government denies it's responsible. The U.N. Security Council is set to hold an emergency session in the coming hours on this.

A survivor of one of the first chemical attacks in the Syrian civil war is calling on the U.S. to intervene.

CHURCH: In an editorial last year in The New York Times, Kassem Eid described how he survived a sarin gas attack back in 2013. He told CNN now is the time to prevent more chemical attacks.


KASSEM EID, 2013 SYRIAN GAS ATTACK SURVIVOR: My message to the international community is that you should be ashamed. You are as guilty as Assad and Putin and Iran on the atrocities in Syria for more than seven years, more than -- I don't know, maybe 700,000 people got killed.

Millions of people got displaced. It's not just about the chemical weapons. I lived for two years under siege and bombardment. I used to eat from the trash cans alongside the other civilians under siege just like the people in Douma and Eastern Ghouta who have been enduring siege for many years.

I will tell the international community, you should do something right now to save whoever is left in Douma. People are forced to flee. Women will be detained and raped. Men will be slaughtered. Children will be killed, just like they do each and every single time, because it happened in my town. I survived it. I ask Ambassador Nikki Haley to resign, because two months ago I went to her office in New York and I told her assistants that my friends on the ground are telling me that the Assad regime is planning on a large scale chemical weapons attack. All what they did was simply ignoring me.


CHURCH: Joining me now to talk more about this is CNN military analyst Lieutenant Colonel Rick Francona. Rick, good to see you. Now according to rescuers, dozens of people were killed in Douma. Hundreds more were exposed to toxic gases.

But Syria's government and Russia deny any involvement in this suspected chemical attack. But is there any other credible explanation for what happened, particularly when you look at those disturbing images?

RICK FRANCONA, CNN MILITARY ANALYST: No. There is no other explanation. If you look at where this is, this is the last remaining enclave to the east of Damascus. It's completely surround by Syrian ground forces.

They're pounding it daily with artillery and air. They completely control all access to this area. If there was any attack at all, it was done by the Syrians. I don't think there is any question about that.

CHURCH: Right. And of course, we know now that the U.N. Security Council will hold an emergency meeting Monday. What do they need to do about this? How do they need to respond?

FRANCONA: Well, of course, they're going to have to condemn the Syrians. And no matter what action they try and take, I believe that the Russians will veto it. And the Syrians are emboldened by this because they know that the Russians not only support them militarily in the country, but they also support them diplomatically on the international stage and that includes the United Nations.

So I don't expect anything to come out of the United Nations maybe other than -- maybe a commitment to launch an investigation. Somebody will start a study. But nothing concrete is going to happen there.

CHURCH: Right. And President Donald Trump, he has condemned Syria, Russia, and Iran in the wake of this suspected chemical attack. And he said on Twitter that there will be a big price to pay. What do you think he means by that?

FRANCONA: Well, you know, he has kind of boxed himself into a corner by making these statements. This is very similar to President Obama's red line. When you draw these lines, when you make these threats and you're challenged, you have to back them up. So, now the president is probably going to have to order some reaction.

[03:34:58] And I know the Pentagon is probably providing him with a range of options, be they missile strikes, some sort of air strike. But he is almost forced into action now. Of course, when you see those images on TV, it kind of -- you understand that we've got to do something.

CHURCH: Right. And what would you expect to be the outcome here, the response from the United States?

FRANCONA: Well, I think we're probably do very much what we did a year ago. If you remember, it's almost exactly one year when we launched the attack on the (INAUDIBLE) air base, the air base responsible for the attack in (INAUDIBLE). We may see a similar strike on whatever base they believe launched this attack.

Of course, this was dropped by helicopters. They can come out of anywhere. But you've got to send a message to the Syrians. Will it have a military effect? No. Will it change the outcome? No. Are the Syrians going to win? Yes. But we cannot sit passively by while they use these weapons on innocent people.

CHURCH: And according to state television, a deal was reached to evacuate rebels in there (ph), which of course means the government has won the entire Douma area back from the rebels. What does that tell you?

FRANCONA: This tells me, I am so confused, Rosemary, as to why the Syrians would do this, knowing that they're risking a retaliatory strike by the United States or or other western countries when they didn't need to. They've won. It was only a matter of time before they reduce that pocket to nothing, be it by just brute force or by the agreement that we now know that they've reached.

So why do it? Why incur the wrath of the rest of the world? It just makes no sense. And I have to believe that the Russians would have been counselling them against this. But having spoken to several Russian military officers over the years, they say the Syrians don't always listen to their advice.

CHURCH: Rick Francona, we're also always thankful for your military analysis. Thank you so much.

FRANCONA: Good to be with you, Rosemary.

HOWELL: Still ahead, Hungary's right wing prime minister is celebrating another electoral victory. Activists warn, though, he may become even more autocratic. Ahead, we'll discuss how this could have implications across Europe.


[03:40:05] CHURCH: Human rights activists are concerned about the results of Hungary's parliamentary election. Most of the votes have been counted, and right-wing Prime Minister Viktor Orban is set to secure his third consecutive term in office. He is trying to create what he calls an illiberal democracy.

HOWELL: Critics say the he undermined the free media, also the judicial independence there. The prime minister also campaigned heavily against immigrants and the U.N. human rights has labeled some of his rhetoric as racist. He addressed supporters after claiming victory on Sunday.


VIKTOR ORBAN, PRIME MINISTER OF HUNGARY (through translator): First, I would like to congratulate the voters. Thank you for your participation. High turnout has cast aside all doubts. There is a big battle behind us. We have won a crucial victory, giving ourselves a chance to defend Hungary.


HOWELL: Let's put this into focus now with Patrick Kingsley. Patrick is an international correspondent for The New York Times. Patrick has reported extensively on Hungarian politics live in our London bureau. Thank you for your time today.


HOWELL: First off, explain the dynamics in place that led voters to back Orban. How did he win?

KINGSLEY: Four quick reasons. The first is high level of scaremongering in the election campaign, and indeed going back several years about the migration threat. In reality, very few migrants want to come to Hungary, but Viktor Orban successfully turned that into a major fear among voters that made him seem like the only person who could protect Hungary against an external threat.

The second thing is the economy. The economy has got better under his watch. Wages are up, as is employment. The third aspect is a very divided opposition that failed to rally around unity candidates in various different battleground consistencies that could have dealt a blow to him.

And the fourth aspect, is as you say, this illiberal democracy he has created over the last eight years in power. If you want to know what a far-right leader does when he comes into power, look at Hungary. Since 2010, he has checks and balances, he has gained the electoral system, he has gerrymandered the electoral map, and has created an environment in which it's very hard for opposition politicians to make any headway.

HOWELL: Well, this election certainly has broader implications in your view. What does it mean for the region? What does it mean for Europe at large?

KINGSLEY: Well, I think you just have to look at the immediate reactions from politicians across Europe last night. The first people to react were far-right politicians, Marine Le Pen in France, Geert Wilders (ph) in Holland, and the AfD deputy leader in Germany.

These are all far-right leaders in their own country. And they saw Viktor Orban's victory as a massive Philip (ph) for them. And so at a time when -- maybe externally it seems like Brexit is the biggest challenge facing Europe. In fact, it's probably a country like Hungary which unlike (INAUDIBLE) wants to remain inside the European Union and subvert its values from within.

HOWELL: So all of this coming on the heels of what we saw in Italy as well. That's where far-right parties also made gains, essentially campaigning against immigration, criticizing the E.U. All these things certainly threatening to the E.U. What more can the E.U. do to counter what's happening?

KINGSLEY: Well, one of the criticisms of the E.U. going back to 2010 with Hungary is that it didn't take enough action when it could. And that now actually the die has been cast and there is not much more to be done.

That said, there is a lot of debate about whether the millions and millions of euros that it sent to Hungary in subsidies from Brussels where the E.U. is headquartered, whether those funds could be cut if the democratic backsliding in Hungary continues.

HOWELL: Patrick Kingsley, thank you so much for your time and perspective, live in London today.

KINGSLEY: Thank you.

CHURCH: And this just in to CNN. Russia claims Israel has carried out an airstrike on a Syrian air base. The Russian Defense Ministry says Israel struck from Lebanon without entering Syrian airspace. There is no response yet from Israel. This comes amid heightened tensions in Syria after an alleged chemical attack on a former rebel stronghold outside Damascus.

Well, on Tuesday, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg will be grilled by members of the U.S. Congress about the data controversy his company is confronting. Information from some 87 million users was allegedly harvested by the data company Cambridge Analytica without their knowledge.

[03:44:59] Meanwhile, the social media giant has announced more changes to its site to stop election meddling.

HOWELL: In a post on Friday, a Facebook post, Mark Zuckerberg said this. These steps by themselves won't stop all people from trying to game the system. But they will make it a lot harder for anyone to do what the Russians did during the 2016 election and use fake accounts and pages to run ads.

CNN's Laurie Segall sorts it all out for us, what it means for your news feed.

LAURIE SEGALL, CNN SENIOR TECHNOLOGY CORRESPONDENT: Hey there. Well, Facebook announcing a number of changes to combat election meddling. It's a push for more transparency around advertising and the social media company will now actually begin labeling all political and issue ads. There is also a part of this that will show who paid for those ads and require anyone who wants to run a political or issue ad to verify their identify and location. They'll have to be approved in order to do this.

This is an expansion from Facebook's prior moves. These measures would have applied to political ads, so ads mentioning candidates. But, you know, this expansion also covers issue ads, which if you think about issue ads, they cover hot button issues that don't even mention candidates. So think gun control or education.

You know, as part of this, the company also announced a searchable database where users can actually see how much the ads cost and also what kinds of people advertisers are targeting. This is all about more transparency.

And one more move which is actually pretty interesting, the company is going to start verifying the people behind pages if they have a big following. So think about pages like the topics or organizations that you like on Facebook.

And then think about 2016, Russian trolls actually used pages to pose as Americans on different sides of the political spectrum to create division in America. Facebook found out about this after the fact.

Now, you know, this news is coming as Sheryl Sandberg made the media rounds. She was asked a lot of tough questions. One question she was asked about, you know, will the company find more issues when it came to user data? Listen to what she said.


SHERYL SANDBERG, CHIEF OPERATING OFFICER, FACEBOOK: What we weren't focused enough on was protecting. Because that same data that you enable to use social experiences can also be misused.

SAVANNAH GUTHRIE, ANCHOR, NBC NEWS: Do you think there could be other breaches like the one we saw in Cambridge Analytica where tens of millions of people's data was accessed improperly?

SANDBERG: We're doing an investigation. We're going to do audits. And yes, we think it's possible. That's why we're doing the audit.


SEGALL: And all of this is coming before a monumental week for Facebook. The CEO, Mark Zuckerberg, will be testifying before Congress on Tuesday and Wednesday. You'll have lawmakers posing very challenging questions to Mark about the company's use of data in light of the Cambridge Analytica scandal and everything that has come out. And also the weaponization of the platform for political purposes. Back to you.

CHURCH: Thanks for that, Laurie.

Donald Trump has been called the "reality TV president" by critics. So, is that why he has said his cabinet picks need to have the look? We will take a look. Back in a moment.


CHURCH: Well, across the United States at this time of year, it's supposedly what people call spring, right?

HOWELL: Supposedly, though, right? It doesn't feel like spring. Pedram Javaheri is here to tell us, why it doesn't feel like spring, Pedram?


PEDRAM JAVAHERI, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Oh, my goodness. The flip-flop of weather patterns here really is a pretty incredible setup when you look at what's happening across the western U.S. It's happening across the eastern portion of the country.

The snow showers are rather widespread here. Of course we're talking about the beginning and middle portion of April for the next couple days. Pretty widespread coverage of all of this from Chicago south into portions of say, even the Appalachians, the southern region of the Appalachians, a decent amount of snow possible over the next couple of days.

While out towards the southwest, it is precisely the opposite. Temps there's running 10 to 20 above average versus the 10 to 20 below average on the eastern half of the country. Look at this. The Santa Ana. That shapes up in parts of Southern California, into the 80s. Parts of Southern Arizona approaching 100 degrees Fahrenheit over the next 24 hours.

Phoenix in the middle 90s as well. You want the heat, it's absolutely in place across the west. But these temps in places like Chicago, Cleveland, Minneapolis, Detroit, all of them into the upper 30s, ranging from what you would expect say around Valentine's Day to what you would expect about a month or so ago.

So yes, spring should be here and the warmth should certainly be felt, but it hasn't been the case over the past seven days. In fact, go back to the first of January. The record highs over 7300, the record lows over 6300. Roughly a one-to-one ratio. For every record low, you get a record high.

The past seven days, only 18 record highs have been set in the U.S. Five hundred sixty-two record lows have been set, a 31 to one ratio taking place there. You notice a warming trend is in store. The next couple of days, Chicago goes up from 39 up to 60. In St. Louis, go from 50 up to 70.

That warming trend is there. But we think over Saturday, Sunday, and Monday as the cold air kind of moves out, we get a little warmth here. Notice another signal of colder air. This date stamp on Saturday. By Sunday into Monday, expect that cold air to once again drop towards the south.

Places like Chicago go on an incredible roller coaster ride of 39 and snow showers today. Climb up and take it up to 72 by Friday. And then bring it back to the upper 30s by early next week potentially. So for the short-term, it doesn't look like spring is here yet. We'll have to hang in there for another week and a half.

CHURCH: Horrible temperatures, Pedram.


HOWELL: Thank you, Pedram.

CHURCH: Thank you.

JAVAHERI: You bet.

HOWELL: Picking a cabinet position. The people on the cabinet. It is one of the most important things a president has to do.

CHURCH: Yes. There are so many qualified candidates, of course. How do you narrow down the list? Jeanne Moos shows us the key qualification Donald Trump is a looking for in his cabinet.


JEANNE MOOS, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice over): When the president is casting around for appointees, where does he look?

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: These are central casting. If I'm doing a movie, I pick you, general.

MOOS (voice over): From Secretary of Defense Mattis to his pick of the White House doctor for Veterans Affairs.

TRUMP: He's like central casting on a movie camera, like a Hollywood star.

MOOS (voice over): President Trump looks at looks even in opposition candidates.

TRUMP: I hear he's nice looking. I think I'm better looking than him. I do.

MOOS (voice over): The look. President thought Rex Tillerson and Mitt Romney had it, but John Bolton's mustache was apparently too much in his face.

[03:55:05] UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Easy fella.

MOOS (voice over): Until the president changed his mind and decided he could live with it. President Trump also had a change of heart when he first announced he would hire a husband-wife attorney team, then decided they had too many legal conflicts. Plus, the president was turned off because they looked disheveled when they came to meet with him, according to Politico. He has even complained about Hillary.

TRUMP: I just don't think she has a presidential look.

MOOS (voice over): When it comes to a vice presidential look --

TRUMP: The primary reason I wanted Mike, other than he looks very good --

MOOS (voice over): Maybe the president is taking advice from Seinfeld.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If you want to make a person feel better after they sneeze, you shouldn't say, God bless you, you just say, you're so good looking.


MOOS (voice over): The president jokes about his own looks.

TRUMP: But they showed me, young, handsome.


TRUMP: I said, why couldn't I look like that today?

MOOS (voice over): And he flattered his new economic adviser plucked from a job on CNBC.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He said, you're -- you are on the air. And he said, looking at a picture of you. And he said, very handsome.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Next week, he is replacing Jeff Sessions with Matlock.



MOOS (voice over): He has seen a lot of Stormy Daniels on TV lately, but The Washington Post reports, the president even has griped to several people that Daniels is not the type of woman he finds attractive. His smile suggests otherwise.

Jeanne Moos, CNN --


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You are so good looking.


MOOS: New York.


HOWELL: Here's looking at you, as we thank you for watching today. I'm George Howell.

CHURCH: And I'm Rosemary Church. "Early Start" is next for our viewers here in the United States. And for everyone else, stay tuned for more news with our Max Foster in London. Have a great day.