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Allies Target Suspected Chemical Weapons Facilities; U.S. Strives to Balance Threat, Diplomacy in Region; U.S. and Russia Trade Recriminations at U.N.; Pentagon States Strikes Successfully Hit Every Target; White House in Crisis; Survivors of Suspected Chemical Attack Speak; Gas Attack Survivor Praises Action; Starbucks Sorry after Black Men Arrested. Aired 5-6a ET

Aired April 15, 2018 - 05:00   ET





UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Precise, overwhelming and effective.

NIKKI HALEY, U.S. AMBASSADOR TO THE U.N.: If the Syrian regime uses this poisonous gas again, the United States is locked and loaded.

KASSEM EID, SURVIVOR, SYRIAN 2017 SARIN GAS ATTACK: I just want to tell Mr. Trump like directly I'm a Syrian refugee who survived chemical weapons attacks. I would love to buy you a beer.

JAMES COMEY, FORMER FBI DIRECTOR: I was operating in a world where Hillary Clinton was going to beat Donald Trump. And if I hide this from the American people, she will be illegitimate the moment she is elected.

BEN STILLER, COMEDIAN, "MICHAEL COHEN": That's right. Michael Cohen, attorney at law and also sometimes not at law. I'm Donald Trump's lawyer. I got a whole hard drive that's just labeled "Yikes."



UNIDENTIFIED MALE (voice-over): This is NEW DAY WEEKEND with Victor Blackwell and Christi Paul.

VICTOR BLACKWELL, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning to you. Just hours after launching their military strike on Syria, American, British and French leaders are calling for a new investigation into the suspected chemical weapons attack by Bashar al-Assad and his regime.

CHRISTI PAUL, CNN HOST: The allies say it will help dismantle the program in, quote, "a verifiable and irreversible way."

These are new images we want to show you of Tomahawk missiles being launched from the submarine U.S.S. John Warner. This is in the Mediterranean Sea. Syria's most powerful ally, Russia, has called on the United Nations to condemn the action.

But members of the Security Council overwhelmingly voted down that resolution. Syria says most were intercepted, that some were left unscathed. Take a look at the satellite images here, though. They appear to dispute that, showing some sites just leveled.

And the U.S. ambassador to the U.N. says if Syria launches more chemical attacks, the allies are ready to strike again.


HALEY: If the Syrian regime uses this poisonous gas again, the United States is locked and loaded. When our president draws a red line, our president enforces the red line.


PAUL: So Nikki Haley emphasizes the willingness and the readiness to strike again. There are other members of the Trump administration who seem to suggest the action is not so open ended.

BLACKWELL: So you see these two dueling messages. They really highlight the delicate and sometimes precarious balance of diplomacy inside one of the most volatile power struggles in the world. Let's go now to CNN White House correspondent Boris Sanchez -- Boris.

BORIS SANCHEZ, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Victor and Christie, the Trump administration walking a fine line this weekend when it comes to these airstrikes in Syria.

For one, the president tweeting out "mission accomplished," touting the success of the U.S. military. You also have the Secretary of Defense, Jim Mattis, saying that this was a one-time shot.

On the other hand you have other officials, like the U.N. ambassador to the United Nations, Nikki Haley, and Vice President Mike Pence both saying that the United States is locked and loaded and ready to respond to any kind of further, similar aggression by Bashar al-Assad using chemical weapons on his own people if necessary.

Now that's not necessarily because there is a mixed message when it comes to the U.S. policy. It is simply that the American policy for the future of Syria is complicated. One thing that simply isn't is the vision of the administration for Russia's involvement in that conflict.

The vice president had a direct message to the Kremlin when he spoke to reporters in Peru as part of the Summit of the Americas on Saturday. Listen to what Mike Pence said.


MIKE PENCE, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Our message to Russia is you're on the wrong side of history. It's time for Russia to get the message that President Trump delivered last night, that you're known by the company you keep. The time has come for Russia to join the family of nations in

condemning the Assad regime's use of chemical weapons and demanding that they live up to the commitments that they made in 2014 under the last administration.


SANCHEZ: Of course, Victor and Christie, the question now becomes what happens moving forward, though administration officials have maintained that these airstrikes crippled Bashar al-Assad's ability to use chemical weapons, it is not a guarantee. It is possible that he may have some stockpile that is not known to American authorities.

And previously after other airstrikes, though in a much more limited capacity, we have seen Bashar al-Assad sort of act anyway, despite American aggression in response to his use of chemical weapons.

So how effective were these airstrikes?

And where does the American presence in that country go from here?

Two very big questions, especially when you consider that just a few weeks ago, President Trump told supporters in --


SANCHEZ: -- Ohio to the surprise of both allies and some administration officials that he was ready to remove American troops from Syria -- Victor and Christie.

BLACKWELL: All right, Boris. Thank you very much. Let's get to one of those big questions you asked there.

What happens next?

PAUL: To help answer that question, we want to bring in two of our veteran international correspondents. Nic Robertson is CNN's international diplomatic editor and joins us from Moscow.

Fred Pleitgen is in Beirut, Lebanon.

Nic, I would like to start with you. Russia has been Syria's most powerful patron and ally. They called for this U.N. Security Council meeting to discuss it. The council meeting did not go on as they had planned.

Do we know how firm Russia's loyalty is in light of the attacks we have seen?

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR: Yes. I think you have to look at the whole picture here from the Russian angle and say that the dial hasn't moved. Perhaps it swung the other way.

What we have heard from the Russian leadership and the Russian MOD here is they consider perhaps they should upgrade their air defense systems they supply to the Syrian government, which is effectively a doubling down in support of President Bashar al-Assad.

So Russia for its part kind of feels that it dodged a bullet here. None of its troops were injured. This something they made clear was a rebel entity, the United States, which means they didn't have to respond directly to the United States, which doesn't draw the United States in, which leaves Russia free to continue the way it wants in Syria.

So I think from the point of view from the Kremlin is few would make big complaints at the U.N. but it really doesn't matter. We are in the driving seat in Syria and that where we'll continue to be.

BLACKWELL: Beyond Russia, it seems like all sides here at least claim some partial victory.

What's the view there in the region?

PAUL: Fred, that's for you.



PLEITGEN: We'll let Nic go first if you like.

PAUL: No, no, no, Fred, go ahead. That was for you.

PLEITGEN: All right. Well, I think that's absolutely right. I think that all sides were claiming some sort of victory in all of this or at least they are claiming that they haven't lost because of all this. If you look at the videos that came out from the Pentagon but also from the Syrian military as well and the Syrian government, it certainly seems as though the U.S. absolutely annihilated all the targets that it wanted to hit.

So certainly the U.S. can say that, yes, it did hit all these targets.

The big question, for instance this chemical research facility is, was it still in use?

To what extent was the Assad government able to move assets out of there before these strikes happened?

They, of course, had ample warning, thanks to the tweets from President Trump. So they could have certainly done that.

And then of course, you look on the other side and you see President Assad. He came forward yesterday and showed pictures of himself casually walking to work after this attack. He certainly does not feel weakened.

Guys, I have to tell you, yesterday after the U.S. attacks on this chemical sites happened, the Assad announced that it had actually won that entire region where that attack happened back from the rebels. So clearly as far as the trajectory of Syria's civil war is concerned,

it really hasn't changed very much. It hasn't diminished Assad's capabilities as far as the military is concerned and it certainly hasn't stopped the momentum.

As far as Russians in Syria are concerned, they are claiming that the U.S. is simply not going to challenge them there in Syria. They always point to the fact that those U.S. strikes that happened stayed well away from any sort of Russian anti-air defenses and away from Russia's area of operations there, especially in the northwest of Syria, where they are.

So it seems as though all sides are saying, this happened; they condemn each other, they criticize each other but it really won't change very much on the ground.

PAUL: We know OPCW still expected to be inspecting the facilities there on the ground in Syria.

Nic, do we know what the Russians are thinking about that, doing about that?

Certainly they are not welcoming them but they can't stop them.

ROBERTSON: Actually the Russians have a very interesting narrative on the OPCW and the airstrikes. They say, because this was a fabricated chemical weapons attack that was sort of sponsored by foreign governments, implying at one time the United States, at one time Great Britain, they are saying actually these airstrikes were designed to cover the tracks up of this fake chemical weapons attack.

They've said actually our troops are now on the ground, our military police are now on the ground in Douma, in this neighborhood, the Syrian forces are on the ground in Douma, in Damascus, and that the OPCW is welcome to come there and make their inspection.

And I think from a Russia perspective, they have already sent their people in and they've already said that there was nothing there to be found.

So there will automatically be skepticism. Now Russian military officials, chemical weapons experts have been in there already.

Could they have cleaned out the area --


ROBERTSON: -- cleaned up the area?

Could they have damaged or destroyed evidence?

The Russians say there was no evidence there to damage or destroy. So I think the Russians have a narrative, whatever the OPCW say. They will certainly try to spin it to their advantage, which is exactly what they've done with this poisoning in England. They refuse to accept at face value the statement coming from the OPCW. They want to nickel and dime it and argue every angle on it.

But you know, it doesn't -- it stands up -- what the OPCW says stands up to international scrutiny but apparently not to Russian scrutiny.

PAUL: All right. Fred Pleitgen, Nic Robertson, thank you so much. Thank you so much for being with us. Appreciate it.

BLACKWELL: All right. Philip Wegmann is a commentary writer for the "Washington Examiner."

Philip, good morning to you.

PHILIP WEGMANN, "WASHINGTON EXAMINER": Good morning. Thank you for having me.

BLACKWELL: So let's examine the comments from the U.S. ambassador to the U.N., Nikki Haley, when she says that, if Assad uses these weapons again, that the United States is locked and loaded.

Reconcile that with the "mission accomplished" element from the president.

Is there an inconsistency, is there a contradiction there?

WEGMANN: I think when we heard her at the U.N., she kind of took a jab at President Obama when she said that this president actually stands behind his red lines. So the immediate analysis is that, yes, President Trump is retroactively enforcing those red lines.

But what the White House wants to spin currently is they want to show this as a reaction to proliferation of chemical weapons generally. A second ago, your past guest was talking about the poisoning of agents in the United Kingdom by Russians with chemical agents.

So I think what this administration wants to do is they want to show that this is the first shot across the bow, that they can enforce these treaties going forward and that if anyone is interested in using chemical weapons, that they should think twice because you have got to know that not only are Russia and the Syrians watching closely, so also are the Chinese and North Koreans.

BLACKWELL: OK, so let's talk about the response going forward. We know that the last time, before this one, that there was some response from the U.S. to the use of chemical weapons, that was in April 2017, the one that happened several days ago.

There reporting is there have been several chlorine attacks in Syria in the interim during that year.

So are people to expect that the U.S. will respond to those other attacks that -- I won't say were ignored but did not garner a military response over the last year?

WEGMANN: That's the question because it's not just those chlorine attacks as well. The United States, they were effective in those assaults on those chemical weapons facilities. But the larger question here is also the use of chlorine gas but even

also bullets, bombs and tanks. Assad is a bad actor and as we saw him strolling back into the presidential palace, he is not going to do anything differently moving forward.

The civil war is going to continue in that area. And while there has been a shot across the bow, there has been a warning when it comes to the use of these chemical weapons. I don't think we'll see a significant change in that conflict there generally. There are still going to be civilians who are going to die en masse through conventional weapons.

BLACKWELL: Excellent segue. Let's now listen to Republican congressman Will Hurd on just that topic.


REP. WILL HURD (R), TEXAS: There's no specific talk about what should happen with Assad. In my opinion, he has to go. That's why I think Assad should go. That's why I think we should force and use additional diplomatic processes, financial sanctions, in order to push the Iranians and the Russians to get Assad to participate in a diplomatic conclusion to the Syrian civil war.


BLACKWELL: So this war obviously did not start on April 7th, 2018. It's been going on for seven years now.

Is what Congressman Hurd just said there plausible at all?

WEGMANN: I that the congressman, he is a former intelligence analyst. He has a very good sense of what's happening here. My general thinking is that, in order to have those diplomatic conversations, in order to be taken seriously at the United Nations, you need to live up to the threats that you put out there.

President Obama established a red line that he let the Syrians cross. This president isn't doing that. And I think that this force is a segue to having more serious questions with the Iranians, with the Russians because now they know that this administration, you know, there's a lot of rhetoric coming out of Washington right now especially.

But they know that, at least on this issue, the president means it.

BLACKWELL: All right, Philip Wegmann, thanks so much.

PAUL: To send or not to send?

The former FBI director James Comey had a critical decision to make in the days prior to the presidential election. He tells ABC what he was thinking --


PAUL: -- when he told lawmakers about finding new Clinton e-mails.


COMEY: She will be elected president. And if I hide this from the American people she will be illegitimate the moment she is elected, the moment this comes out.

PAUL (voice-over): Coming up, what Comey says he would do if given another chance.


BLACKWELL: Plus new satellite pictures of the areas that were targeted in the U.S., French and British strikes. We'll explain the significance of those pictures.




PAUL: Protesters in Washington marched in front of the White House chanting, "Hands off Syria."

Some analysts are calling on President Trump to develop and follow a concise strategic policy on Syria. But antiwar protesters didn't just appear in the U.S.

BLACKWELL: Some were also in London, called for no more bombs on Syria and were concerned the strikes could escalate the Syrian civil war. Other protesters were in Turkey, where many activists say only a political solution in Syria could help bring stability to the region.

The U.S., U.K. and French are pushing for an irreversible end to Syria's chemical weapons program. U.N. diplomats they tell CNN France, backed by the U.S. and the U.K., wanted independent investigation of the chemical weapons attacks.

PAUL: This after a heated debate at the U.N. Security Council between the U.S. and Russia and a failed attempt by Russia to get the U.N. to condemn the attacks.

BLACKWELL: CNN senior international correspondent Atika Shubert is in Paris.

Atika, tell us more about this resolution being led by France.

ATIKA SHUBERT, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: That's right. France has taken the initiative in drafting the resolution, with the support of the U.S. and the U.K.

It basically asks for three things: it says it wants to put an end to Syria's chemical weapons program in a way that is verifiable and irreversible.

It wants an immediate cease-fire to allow humanitarian convoys into areas like Eastern Ghouta.

And it also acknowledges that there has to be an inclusive political solution.

France is saying it's giving time for negotiations on this and they expect this to be discussed in front of the Security Council on Monday. And I believe it's the first time we have actually seen a resolution like this that includes not only appeals on a humanitarian level but also on a political level --


SHUBERT: -- and also a demand to stop the chemical weapons program.

The problem is, we have seen these demands before for the last seven years. It has not worked so it is not clear how or what it is they believe will allow this to push it forward, especially with Russia there vetoing so many of these resolutions.

PAUL: Atika Shubert, appreciate it so much, thank you.

BLACKWELL: The strike by the U.S., U.K. and France hit three areas used to manufacture and store chemical weapons.

PAUL: Let's take a look here at these satellite pictures. You can see the sites before and after the bombing. CNN's military analyst Maj. Gen. James "Spider" Marks walks us through this.


GEN. JAMES "SPIDER" MARKS, CNN MILITARY ANALYST: First of all, this is imagery before of the Barzeh research and development facility. Let me highlight, as you can see, the entire complex -- this is about like that, pretty scrawling. Inside, I want you to pay attention to these three buildings right here, one, two and three.

That's where the targeting took place. After the strike, this is what happened. As you can see, very precise targeting in this very specific area, going after those three buildings. The rest of the facility as you can see is untouched. That's the nature of these strikes that took place.

The next target was Homs. There were two strike packages or at least two locations that were used in the Homs area. I want you to pay attention to these three buildings right here, also these storage facilities you can see right here, this location here.

What's interesting is this is where the strike took place, not here; very clear that, after the strike, again, damage to the point of destruction there, these areas untouched. Obviously these were not significant to the development and/or the delivery or the storage of those chemical weapons.

Then if you look at the next facility in Homs, pay attention, if you will, to this location, not these buildings or these vehicles. Again, it's very, very interesting when you look at the before imagery and then you look at the after imagery. Here is what happened on the strike. Very clearly, this area was damaged.

This was an underground facility. It looks like that's where the penetration took place. Same vehicle located here, same vehicle located here. I'm sure these folks were awakened by the blast but they were untouched. That's the nature of a precision strike.


BLACKWELL: All right. James Comey says knowing now what he knew then, that even if sending his 2016 letter to Congress helped elect Donald Trump, he would do it again. Next, he'll explain.





PAUL: It's an early Sunday morning, 26 minutes after the 5 o'clock hour here. I'm Christi Paul.

BLACKWELL: I'm Victor Blackwell. Good morning to you.

PAUL: It's good to have you with us here.

So former FBI director James Comey said if he had to do it all over again, he would still send his pivotal 2016 letter, whether it changed the outcome of the election or not.

BLACKWELL: Speaking to ABC's George Stephanopoulos, Comey explains why he told Congress about finding new Hillary Clinton e-mails days before the election. Watch.


GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS, ABC HOST: Wasn't the decision to reveal influenced by your assumption that Hillary Clinton was going to win?

And your concern that she wins, this comes out several weeks later and then that's taken by her opponents as a sign that she's an illegitimate president?

COMEY: It must have been. I don't remember consciously thinking about that but it must have been because I was operating in a world where Hillary Clinton was going to beat Donald Trump.

And so I'm sure that it was a factor. Like I said, I don't remember spelling it out. But it had to have been, that she is going to be elected president and, if I hide this from the American people, she'll be illegitimate the moment she's elected, the moment this comes out.

STEPHANOPOULOS: If you knew that letter would elect Donald Trump, you would you still send it?

COMEY: I would.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Hillary Clinton is convinced that that letter defeated her.

What do you say to her?

COMEY: I hope not. I don't know. I honestly don't know. I sure hope not. But the honest answer is, it wouldn't change the way I think about it. I mean, my hope -- I didn't write the book for this reason but talking about leadership it was important to tell the e- mail story because it's me trying to figure out how to lead well, that people will read that story and try to put themselves in my shoes, try to realize that I'm not trying to help a candidate or hurt a candidate. I'm trying to do the right thing. And you can come up with different conclusions, reasonable people would have chosen a different door for reasonable reasons.

But it's just not fair to say we were doing it for some illegitimate reason.


PAUL: Philip Wegmann, commentary writer at the "Washington Examiner" back with us now.

Philip, thank you for sticking around here. So of course, Comey said he would release the letter all over again.

When he said that he knew that it would illegitimize a Hillary Clinton presidency had that happened, is there credence to that thought process there?

WEGMANN: I think that shows two things. The first is that James Comey had a close eye on the political races of 2016.

The second that it shows is James Comey has Democrats around his little finger. Ahead of that, Democrats said James Comey and his decision to release information about the Clinton investigation showed that he was an existential threat to democracy.

And now that he taking jabs at this president, he is supposedly the last Boy Scout in Washington. So the Stockholm syndrome here is remarkable when it comes to Comey. But I think that what this shows is that he is going to continue to be an actor in U.S. politics for several months to come.

PAUL: But how effective will he be for or against the president?

WEGMANN: This is very interesting. You know, when you talk about the respect of Comey because if he wants to show himself as a sober lawman, I think that he needs to stop with some of these tabloid attacks.

The fact about this book is that it's not a bombshell because all of the important details have already been leaked to the press through those memos. So instead, what Comey is trying to do is put together a blockbuster here. That's why he is talking smaller details, like the president's hand size and his hair.

He speculates about whether or not the president was hanging out with incontinent Russian prostitutes. So you know, if Comey wants to be taken seriously, I think that he needs to move away from some of these petty discussions and actually --


WEGMANN: -- go back to the very serious questions about the Clinton investigation and also about what the Trump campaign was doing during the election.

PAUL: All right. I want to move forward to the possible firing of Rod Rosenstein. Former deputy attorney general Sally Yates tweeted this.

She writes, "Make no mistake about what's at stake here. Firing Rosenstein would be the same unconscionable assault on the rule of law as firing Mueller. He controls the scope of the Mueller investigation and what becomes public. Both D's and R's should reject sham excuses to fire Rosenstein."

D's and R's Democrats and Republicans.

What do you believe would happen if Rosenstein is fired?

WEGMANN: First of all, Rod Rosenstein heads for the exit because of this president, then any chance of Republicans surviving a blue wave on Capitol Hill is absolutely next to nil. This would be a gift to Democrats who are trying to rally their base to get to the polls.

Remember, this is the overarching narrative here. James Comey is a product of the Trump administration because President Trump didn't listen to his advisers, kept him on board and then publicly fired him.

If he does the same thing with Rosenstein, if he does the same thing with the special counsel, I think it blows up even further. So the president has already made his bed and now he needs to sleep in it. And if he tries to get rid of Rosenstein, if he tries to send him away like he did with Comey, I think that this elevates even more.

PAUL: All right, Philip Wegmann, good to have your thoughts. Thank you for being here.

WEGMANN: Thanks for having me.

BLACKWELL: All right, Comey, Cohen now. We've got the latest on President Trump's personal lawyer, the latest twist in this Stormy Daniels story, where we expect Michael Cohen will show up tomorrow.

PAUL: Also a CNN world exclusive. CNN's Arwa Damon speaks with survivors of the suspected chemical attack in Syria. A little girl told her she hid her doll in a box to protect her from the toxic gas. We'll show you more. Stay with us.





UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Excuse me, Mr. sessions...


Are they here for us?

I'll go peacefully.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: No, it's not the police. The president's lawyer, Michael Cohen, is here to see you.

"SESSIONS": Oh, finally. Yes, by all means, send him in.


"COHEN": How are you doing?

That's right. Michael Cohen, attorney at law and also sometimes not at law.


PAUL: Of course, Ben Stiller there, making his debut as President Trump's personal attorney just a few hours ago on "Saturday Night Live."

BLACKWELL: We expect to see a lot more of the real Michael Cohen this week because he is due tomorrow in federal court in Manhattan. After the FBI raid on his home, office and hotel room, at issue here are recordings swept up in the raid of calls between Cohen and another lawyer, whose clients could prove very problematic for Cohen and potentially for the president. Here's Sara Sidner with more.


SARA SIDNER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Christie and Victor, in our exclusive reporting, we learned from a source familiar with the matter that the FBI seized recorded conversations between the president's personal attorney, Michael Cohen, and Los Angeles-based attorney Keith Davidson. Now that's important because Keith Davidson was the lawyer who represented porn star Stormy Daniels and former "Playboy" Playmate Karen McDougal, who both claim they had an affair with Donald Trump. The White House has repeatedly denied the affairs happened.

But both women were paid and signed agreements that effectively silenced their stories about their alleged affairs with Trump within weeks of the 2016 presidential election.

Now Mr. Cohen, the president's personal attorney, is under scrutiny, in part for his role in seeking to suppress the alleged affairs and payoff to Stormy Daniels. Cohen has also been accused of being involved in quashing McDougal's alleged affair with Trump, which she sold to the parent company of the "Enquirer."

The publication never actually published her story but denies that Cohen or Trump had anything to do with its decision to kill the story.

Now the recordings that we have learned of could shed light on the inner workings of deals we now know Cohen and attorney Davidson both worked on. The recordings could prove valuable to the government's criminal investigation of Michael Cohen.

We also know the warrant for the raids also specified that Cohen was being investigated for bank fraud, wire fraud and campaign finance issues.

Now on another note, there is another big story that came out that we have reported on. We discovered that Michael Cohen was involved in yet another confidentiality deal with Keith Davidson.

Sources say in the latest deal to come to light, it happened in summer or early fall of 2017. Cohen represented then deputy finance chairman of the Republican National Committee, Elliott Broidy, in a case that involved an affair with a former "Playboy" Playmate, who says Broidy had gotten her pregnant.

Now according to a source who has seen the hush agreement, the deal was Broidy would pay his mistress $1.6 million over a series of payments to be made on a quarterly basis for unspecific personal injury claims.

Broidy has denied responsibility for those claims. Broidy did send a statement admitting that he indeed have a mistress, saying, "At the end of our relationship, this woman shared with me that she was pregnant. She alone decided that she did not want to continue with the pregnancy and I offered to help her financially during this difficult period. We have not spoken since that time."

Just so you know, a few hours after that statement, Broidy stepped down from his lofty position at the Republican National Committee -- Victor, Christie.


PAUL: It's been quite a week. Thank you, Sara, so much.

Later this morning on "STATE OF THE UNION," Jake Tapper is talking with Stormy Daniels attorney, Michael Avenatti, plus Senator Angus King and former U.S. attorney Preet Bhahara right here on CNN.

BLACKWELL: Up next, a CNN world exclusive, speaking with the survivors of the suspected chemical attack in Syria. Arwa Damon says they can still smell it on their clothes, that attack that almost killed them. Our report coming up.





BLACKWELL: We have more details on the U.S.-led airstrikes in Syria. The U.N. says that hundreds of thousands of civilians fled after the chemical attacks in Douma, near Damascus. Now many of them are living in camps.

PAUL: Take a look here. This is a world exclusive. CNN the first network to speak with survivors of that attack. CNN senior international correspondent Arwa Damon was with them just hours after the U.S.-led airstrikes.


ARWA DAMON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: And there's definitely something that stinks...

DAMON (voice-over): These backpacks belong to Malas (ph) and Betha (ph), 7-year-old twins from Douma.

They're a little shy and hesitant.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: (Speaking foreign language).

DAMON (voice-over): Their mother, Imoor (ph), tells us they remember everything vividly.

They were hiding in a basement when the alleged chemical weapons attack in Douma took place. They could barely breathe. She felt her body go limp. She clawed her way up, dragging her daughters but then the other strikes began.

"We were between two deaths," she remembers, "either from chemical strikes or the others on the rooftop."

DAMON: The smell is still quite strong because I think that they weren't able to wash yet.

Look, that's the toy that her daughter hid away to try to keep her safe and she would tell the toy, you know, you might -- you might suffocate but at least you'll be safe from the bombing.


DAMON: That is how -- that's how the kids' minds work.

Yesterday, they were digging a tunnel for the ants so that the ants wouldn't suffocate, just in case something happened. DAMON (voice-over): In another tent, we meet a boy with a jagged scar running across his abdomen from shrapnel. His uncle, who doesn't want to be identified, was among the worst affected in the family in the chemical strike.

He says a blood sample was taken the day before. This new camp is inhabited with those who survived the siege of Douma. Its relentless, months-long bombing that drove families underground so that something as simple as feeling the sun on their skin was a luxury.

Reeve (ph) and her family thought there was a lull in the bombing and went outside, when she says three airstrikes slammed right next to them. The next thing she remembers is being in the hospital.

DAMON: She had just gotten out of surgery in the hospital when the wounded from the chemical strike, she says, began coming in.

DAMON (voice-over): The scene was so horrific, she says she forgot her own pain. What she doesn't know, what no one has the heart to tell her is that her husband is dead. Her son, just 2 years old, is too young to remember his father.

The limited U.S.-French-U.K. strikes may have sent a message to the Syrian regime about chemical weapons but not about the rest of its arsenal. For those who have endured the unimaginable, it's little more than a move on a gruesome chess board.

Sixty-eight-year-old Fegzi (ph) arrived here four days ago from Douma. She has buried too many relatives to count, including her son and two grandchildren.

DAMON: There is nothing left for them, I mean, even if they could go home, there's nothing left.

DAMON (voice-over): She says her country has caused her too much pain. And remembering the long lost days when her family was around her, when they were all alive, when feeling safe wasn't a luxury, it's all just too much -- Arwa Damon, CNN, Elbeyli (ph) Refugee Camp, Syria.


PAUL: I know, it's hard to watch. Harder though, of course, for them to live. One survivor of the Syrian chemical attack in 2013 says he is grateful to President Trump for the U.S.-led strike in Syria. Kassem Eid told CNN's Ana Cabrera that lived through two years of siege and bombardment by the Syrian government.


KASSEM EID, SURVIVOR, SYRIAN 2017 SARIN GAS ATTACK: I just want to tell Mr. Trump directly I'm a Syrian refugee, survived chemical weapons attack. I would love to like buy you a beer and just sit in front of you and tell you how bad it is in Syria, how you should listen to your heart, not listen to your generals. You proved once again yesterday that you have a big heart, at least a lot more bigger than Obama.


PAUL: OK. Senior U.S. officials say they are confident both chlorine and sarin gas were used in Syria's alleged chemical attack on the Damascus enclave of Douma last week.

BLACKWELL: Some of these images are difficult to watch but the video purports to show people being treated after that attack. Dozens of people were reportedly killed; 500 people or so showing signs of chemical exposure. Senior U.S. officials say they are confident that both chlorine and sarin gas were used.

Syria has denied using chemical weapons at all. And despite serious denials, since 2013, the U.N. had investigated 34 chemical weapons attacks and identified 26 conducted by the Syrian government. Many of them used chlorine or sarin.

PAUL: CNN's Anderson Cooper discussed the dangers of these gases with chief medical correspondent, Sanjay Gupta.


ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: Sanjay, can you explain what it is about sarin that is so particularly awful, what it does to the body?

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, this is sort of like a pesticide on humans, Anderson. It's extremely lethal and works really fast. And I think the best way of putting is that your bodies are constantly getting these signals that basically tell your motors, for example, to turn on and to turn off. That's constantly happening.

What this does, it sort of sticks everything in the on mode. So everything just goes on and stays on. Your eyes start to water, your nose runs, your lungs start making fluid, your muscles start to seize up.

It is very painful. Ultimately, the diaphragm, which allows you to breathe, that also becomes paralyzed and that ultimately causes someone to die. So it's a terrible thing and what I've described, this sort of pesticide-like effect on the body, can happen within minutes.

COOPER: Why is it harder to detect when it is used?

GUPTA: When looking at sarin gas, we actually look at it, it's a liquid. You see it in a liquid form. When it is used as a weapon of terror like this, it's put out there, it starts to basically turn into --


GUPTA: -- this gas. It is colorless and it is odorless. It's not something that you can obviously detect just with the naked eye. So you wouldn't even know you'd been exposed until you start to have symptoms. That makes it really, really frightening and also because it starts to vaporize quickly, it can be hard to find enough to actually test.

When you do test it, you to find little samples quickly. And sometimes, it will break down and you've got to find the by-products quickly. All of that is just a lot of testing. And typically what happens is you just don't have time for that. You're in a dangerous situation. You can't get those samples.

COOPER: What about chlorine?

How do the effects of chlorine differ from sarin?

GUPTA: Chlorine can cause some similar symptoms but for a totally different reason. What chlorine does is when it hits water or in some of the areas of your body that are more water rich, it'll essentially turn into hydrochloric acid, which is terrible, obviously. You can imagine breathing in this chlorine gas.

It is interacting now with the back of your throat, your mucosa, where some of that water-dense tissue is. And it's turning into acid. It's awful. It's painful. It can obviously get into your lungs and you could have some of those same breathing problems. It might be confused initially with sarin.

But again, with sarin, your pupils will constrict, your nose will run, your muscles will seize up. There are going to be clearly different symptoms, more symptoms, quicker symptoms with sarin versus chlorine.

COOPER: How do you treat people who are suffering from an attack?

GUPTA: One thing you've got to keep in mind is if it gets on skin and on the clothes, then even the people who are now treating someone who've been exposed to sarin are also at risk.

So right away, if you suspect a sarin attack and -- in the medical community, the doctors, nurses who are the first responders, have to immediately do things to protect themselves, make sure it doesn't get onto their skin, that they're not breathing it in, number one.

Number two is you've basically got to try and reduce as much of the exposure that the individual has, taking off their clothes, basically scrubbing them down, making sure you get all the sarin that you can off of them.

There are antidotes, Anderson. You may remember, when we've been coverage conflicts overseas, we're typically given packs, including a substance known as atropine. And atropine is an antidote that can be used for sarin. It has to be given very quickly. So if you don't have it, obviously, you're not going to have it.

But even if you have it, you may not suspect, you may not know you've had a sarin attack so it may be too late by the time you use it.

COOPER: That is awful. Sanjay Gupta, appreciate it, thanks.

GUPTA: Yes, thank you. Anderson.


BLACKWELL: In our last five minutes, Britain's Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson has been weighing in on the Syrian strikes, saying the world is united in its condemnation of chemical weapons but it concedes the impact of the strikes will be limited.


BORIS JOHNSON, BRITISH FOREIGN MINISTER: Finally the world has said enough is enough. And I think it's important to understand the limits of what we are trying to do.


ANDREW: -- end the war.

JOHNSON: That's right, Andrew. And I think that this is not going to -- we must be honest. This is not going to turn the tide of the conflict in Syria. One can hope that it encourages the Russians to get Assad to the negotiating table in Geneva, to get a political process properly going.

But that is, as it were, an extra. The primary purpose is to say no to the use of barbaric chemical weapons.


PAUL: All right. We'll obviously continue to follow that.

I don't know if you've heard about this yet though. Starbucks is apologizing after two African American men were arrested for trespassing, apparently just because they didn't order anything. What the police are saying about it and the police's responsibility here.





BLACKWELL: Often it is cellphone video taken by a stranger that exposes behavior that some people say can only be described as racist.

PAUL: This is what happened this week at a Starbucks in Philadelphia. The coffee chain is now apologizing; police are doubling down, though.

BLACKWELL: Reporter Matt Petrillo from CNN affiliate KYW has the story.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) MATT PETRILLO, CBS PHILLY CORRESPONDENT: Viewer video shows the controversial arrest of two black men at this Rittenhouse Square Starbucks Thursday evening.

That man in the gray vest is a real estate investor. The two men were supposed to meet him to discuss a business project.

LAUREN WIMMER, ATTORNEY: The video in this case essentially speaks for itself.

PETRILLO (voice-over): Now the men have hired attorney Lauren Wimmer. She says they were waiting for the investor in the Starbucks for less than 15 minutes before police arrived.

WIMMER: These guys were doing what people do every single day. They were having a meeting and they were undoubtedly singled out because of their race.

PETRILLO (voice-over): People inside the Starbucks at the time also thought the men were being singled out because of their race so stepped in to try to help.

KANT KHATRI, WITNESS: Six or seven of us went outside and started asking the police officers, why are they doing this?

At which point they eventually took the two gentlemen away.

PETRILLO (voice-over): But Philadelphia police commissioner Richard Ross (ph) took to Facebook Live Saturday to say a Starbucks employee first asked the men to buy something before then telling them to leave. When they didn't, police were called.

RICHARD ROSS (PH), PHILADELPHIA POLICE COMMISSIONER: These officers did absolutely nothing wrong and that they did a service that they were called to do.

PETRILLO (voice-over): Still, many people think the Starbucks employee overstepped by calling the cops.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You can't even stand in a Starbucks without somebody arresting you?

It's crazy to me.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: That just doesn't even sound like something that's worthy of calling the cops, much less an arrest.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's pretty upsetting.

PETRILLO (voice-over): Starbucks issued a statement that reads in part, "We apologize to the two individuals and our customers and are disappointed this led to an arrest. We take these matters seriously and clearly have more work to do when it comes to how we handle incidents in our stores.

PETRILLO: And Starbucks also says it's reviewing its policies and plans to work with the community and police department to try to prevent another situation from happening again -- in Philadelphia, Matt Petrillo, CBS3, Eyewitness News.


PAUL: In California this year, just call it Beychella, apparently. That's what some fans are nicknaming Coachella --


PAUL: -- after a main event by none other than Beyonce.

BLACKWELL: Yes, the headline event not only made some fans yeer but also festival history because Beyonce is the first woman of color to headline. For about two hours here, surprise after surprise, a tribute to Nina Simone; dancing with her sister, Solange; a duet with her husband, Jay Z; finally, a reunion with the other members of Destiny's Child.

She'll be kicking off a joint tour with her husband, Jay Z, this summer. Tickets already purchased.

That last line was just a personal note.

PAUL: Just for you. You have already gotten the tickets.

BLACKWELL: Last month.

PAUL: I'm not going ask you how much that set you back.

BLACKWELL: A couple of coins. A couple of coins.


PAUL: Just a couple.

Stay with us.