tv CNN Newsroom With Fredricka Whitfield CNN April 8, 2018 11:00am-12:00pm PDT
first time since 1980. thanks to all of you for being part of my program this week, and i will see you next week. hello, everyone, and thanks so much for joining me this sunday. i'm fredricka whitfield. right now horror unfolding in syria. a suspected chemical attack killing dozens and injuring hundreds of men, women and young children just one year after one of the worst chemical attacks in the war-torn nation. this time it happened in one of the last rebel-held towns outside the capital of damascus. we want to warn you, some of the images you're about to see are very disturbing and graphic.
cnn cannot independently verify these videos taken by anti-government activists and doctors. activists say civilian misyrian helicopters dropped toxic gas, sending people into convulsions. you can see the chaos in hospitals overwhelmed with injured people. back in washington, the blame game is under way. president trump pointing the finger at president putin, iran and even former president obama. meanwhile, russia is firing back, saying reports of the chemical attack are a hoax. the big question: how will the united states now respond? >> they see us resolve breaking, they see us staying in syria waning. >> the president needs to weigh what the options are and then
act decisively. >> cnn correspondent fred pleitgen is on the ground in syria. also abby phillips, cnn correspondent lisa lav inand retired lieutenant colonel rick fr francona. he is the only western journalist on the ground in the region, fred, walk us through what you know right now. >> reporter: fredricka, those are certainly some troubling images we're seeing in damascus, happening only eight miles from where we are right now. it seems as though this alleged attack started late yesterday evening. now, what these opposition groups are saying is that a helicopter from the syrian government was hovering over that district, then dropped some sort of improvised device which appears to have leaked what they call a toxic gas. afterward people started having those respiratory problems, and then you obviously had many
people who were killed subsequently as well. they say it's dozens of people who are dead. they also say the death toll could likely rise as some people seem to be in very bad condition. two we have to point out we cannot verify the images we're seeing. the syrian government has strongly denied being behind any sort of chemical attack on douma. they say they have to reason to do that. they had that area encircled and were making big gains on the battlefield. they're saying they were trying to hinder the offensive. they have actually reached a deal for the rebels inside of douma for the syrian government to take control of that area once again. nevertheless, it's another one of those times, fredricka, where we can see that there is immense
violence here in syria and that it is civilians who are suffering the most, fredricka. >> frederick pleitgen, thank you so much. let's go to the white house now with correspondent abby phillips. the president is tweeting on this suspected attack and blaming multiple parties. >> that's right, fred. the president has been briefed on this alleged attack, and in harsh terms, it is sharply criticizing russia, iran, vladimir putin by name, but also his predecessor, barack obama. in some of these tweets, the president is calling on assad to open up the area to inspection and also to allow humanitarian aid. he says open area immediately for medical help and verification. another humanitarian disaster for no reason whatsoever. the president also criticizing president obama here in some of these tweets saying they cross the sand in syria ended long ago and assad would be history.
just a year ago, in the wake of another chemical weapons attack, the president announced that he would authorize some surgical airstrikes in syria as some form of deterrent against assad doing this again. but clearly, a year later almost to the day, assad has shown that he will defy president trump and the international community by doing another one of these attacks, but president trump has also been somewhat inconsistent about whether he believes the united states should be involved in syria at all. back in 2013, when president trump was civilian trump, he criticized obama. he said, again, to our very foolish leader, do not attack syria. if you do, many bad things will happen. from that fight the u.s. gets nothing. he really warned obama against doing exactly what he chose to do a year ago, and is now in a position where the world is looking to him to find out what the united states is going to do in the face of yet another
provocation. in the last week and a half, the president has been in talks with his own national security team about the u.s.' future and commitment in syria. he had said on the fly that he wanted u.s. troops to get out, but he is backing down on his commitment for now. paul ryan says the united states needs to continue to lead in syria, and it remains to be seen if the president is going to allow that to happen. he clearly does not like the continued u.s. commitment in that area. he thinks it's a losing game, fred. >> let's bring in international affairs correspondent. what do you think of president trump wting to pull out u.s. troops? >> syria looks at trump for
wanting to pull troops out right now. the assad regime and its backers must be held accountable and any further attacks prevented immediately. last year when president trump launched those airstrikes against the syrian air base, it was also a message to russia in terms of its support. i think that in turn kind of had the russians on the syrians backing off a little bit, and now president trump said a second time he wouldn't be afraid to do it again if assad used camhemical weapons, i woul say now he's kind of duty bound.
if it's a humanitarian situation of this nature, whether it's in syria, also yemen, this is when you see president trump, i think, take a little bit stronger action. so i think it's going to be a little interesting to see how he interacts with his national security team over the coming days and will remember that john bolton istarting as national security adviser tomorrow, someone who does not really thk that assad should be given ee rein neither russia or iran. meantime this morning, republican senator susan collins, a member of the intelligence committee, said president trump should consider a strong response. >> last time this happened, the president did a targeted attack to take out some of the facilities that may be an option and that we should consider now. but it is further reason why it is so important that the president ramp up the pressure in the sanctions on the russian
government, because without the support of russia, i do not believe that assad would still be in office. >> there are reports that france has called for a special meeting of the united nations security council to discuss the attack in syria. they have put out a statement significant, the government seeks to cease fighting and restore the calm that had been happening and there is no military solution to the conflict. colonel francona has extensive experience in syria. was the last u.s. airstrike in syria effective, and are we on the precipice of yet another one? >> we could very well be, it
just depends on what the national security council recommends to the president. we've seen these chemical attacks, and we're not sure what the chemical agent was they used yesterday, but if it was chlorine, we've seen more attacks like that on the air base. it seems like we're able to accept the agent chlorine, but if it goes into the nerves, we're less able to attack. the problem here, fred, this was the stupidest thing the syrians could have done. they don't need to do this. they have that area surrounded. they are reducing it by air power and artillery. the rebels inside there are going to have to agree to some sort of a cease fire to allow people to escape. we've seen this over and over. it's the next logical step. so why they ramp this up like this is just beyond comprehension. they didn't have to do this, and
look where they are now. now they're facing the outrage of the western world in a possible military intervention that they didn't need. it's very, very confusing. . homeland security adviser tom bossert added to that saying the u.s. needs to reconsider its role in the northeast. listen. >> the pendulum has swung in the wrong direction for too long, and the united states of amer a america. brings regional parties and others all around the globe, putting their treasures and their boys and girls on the line and not just american troops. american troops are not going to
help if they leave. we need more u.s. troops. >> this is the wrong message to send at this time. we are on the verge of defeating isis. we need to send the message that we're going to get that accomplished because we're facing a lot of pushback from the russians, iranians and the kurds. rather than indicate that we're willing to leave, that we're willing to turn this over to region al allies. this is a u.s. coalition. without the coalition, now is the time for you to get tough with the remaining rebel opposition. that's exactly what they're
doing. >> that's not too different with what senator lindsey graham had to say about this, the idea of trump pulling u.s. troops out of syria. listen to senator graham. >> a complete, utter disaster to leave before the fight is done. have we learned nothing of what happens when you leave too soon. we pulled troops out of iraq. >> dul this time. >> exactly. the exact same thing that happened in. everyone has been saying this. if we pull out now prematurely like we did in iraq, all we do is give. the ice will regenerate itself and they'll take on more territory. it's not hard to understand.
i don't see why we're even confusing the paurts with these statements. . and many people think russia still has its tentacles in deep. >> after the collapse of the soviet union, we had to effectively chase them out of the region. now we see putin reasserting himself in the area. syria was the first step. he's also looking to libya. he wants to be a player in the region. i have to tell you, he's playing his cards exactly right, starting with syria. but i do have to say, i would imagine the russians are wondering, why did the syrian. >> colonel rick francona.
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they help restore my natural barrier, so i can lock in moisture... and keep us protected. we've got to have each other's backs... and fronts. cerave. what your skin craves. welcome back. president trump taking to twitter this morning to lash out at the "washington post," saying its story on john kelly isn't true, his words. that tweet, in response to an article characterizing the chief of staff's fading role in the white house. "the post" reports kelly grew so frustrated the day that kelly was fired as secretary that it took two staff members to calm the chief of staff down. wondering what to do with scott pruitt, the truth coming out about his security detail,
the $50 a night condo rental. he is being called on to resign, but members are in his defense. >> if you're the epa administrator and two lobbyists change the locks, you've got a problem. the bottom line, this doesn't look good. >> joining me right now, cnn political analyst julian zelizer and ryan jittish. is there a fear that pruitt may face the same demise? >> he's moving forward on an agenda that means a lot to the president, meaning rolling back global environmental changes.
here's senator mike rounds. litzen. >> the reason why all the emphasis right now is on mr. pruitt is because he's executing these policies, and they're not the most popular policies with people, but he's exercising what people have said will take place. >> let's be honest, trump is not that idealogical when it comes to his picks. if he's perfectly embarrassed by someone, he's fine with letting them go. but congressional republicans care a lot about the administration's policy moves and they do like pruitt and want him to stay. there's been a lot of reporting suggesting that senior republicans in congress are prompting trump to stick with him. in the senate, mitch mcconnell is already worried about the confirmation of the new cia director and secretary of state who both face difficult
confirmations. adding a new epa director to that would be even more difficult in an election year. >> even though we know the pattern has been that oftentimes when someone gets too much publicity, the president doesn't like, especially when it's negative, and that, too, could be the kiss of death. we're reporting on kelly's waning influence, and waving his frustrations at the job and threatening to kick, whether john kelly may be the one that's so frustrated that he walks? >> i think he's a mazes by just how much influence he has. there's been a question of him asserting control on this white mouse. i think right now the tension is increasing more between the president and the chief of
staff, and that might cause a problem when the chief doesn't want to stay on. >> this is a story in which it seems the president, you know, used again to attack journalism, the truth of the "washington post," its duty, its tenacity, all of that. but when you also have the backdrop of what appear to be real consternation within the white house, the president not getting along with people or being very critical of people. this can't bode well for this white house, for this president. >> i'm always reminded of what reince priebus, the former chief of staff, said to a historian of the office of the chief of staff after he left. of course, forgetting the exact quote but something like, it was
100 times worse than what you thought on the outside. this provides great detail in the frustrations of john kelly. it's tough getting those details out of the white house, and if you believe someone like reince priebus, it's even worse than we know on the outside. the bottom line, the way the white house is. he's in his 70s, he has a long career and he's never lived nd pain and right now. this isn't really a goodbye. it's a so long, see you soon. up next, the president blaming his predecessor for no
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welcome back. president trump is denouncing syria for launching what he calls a mindless chemical attack on a rebel-held city in syria. this morning the president pointing the finger at iran and russia, even calling out president putin by name for backing syrian president bashar al-assad. but trump is also blaming his predecessor for the syrian crisis saying, quote, if
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. back in 2013, if you'll recall, trump had a very different message for obama, trump calling on him to stay out of syria following two chemical attacks there. then there was this in 2014. >> you look at syria, the line in the sand. remember the famous line in the sand and nothing was done. not that it should be done and not that we should be involved, because we shouldn't be involved. but you don't say we're going to do this or that, and then they do it and then you don't follow up. by the way, i don't want them to follow up but you never should have made the statement. we are in very, very serious trouble. >> back with me again. hello again. cnn political analyst julian zelizer and ryan lizza.
quite the turnaround from the president because there was involvement last year, and now just days ago, the president said, you know, the u.s. should no longer be involved with syria. which is it? >> i don't think there is a "which is it" yet. i think he's zigs and zags as well. i don't think he has a plan in terms of how he's going to respond, so i think it's an open question. when an attack like this happens, what's the president's overall vision and agenda in syria? it's important he has that before he takes any particular. this is the complication. this latest chemical attack is almost a year to the day that
the serin gas attacked the country, and for you there is greater anticipation on how he might have handled this, because a year ago, he scored a lot of political points for that move. >> when the follow-up questions were asked about what is his view in syria, the united states typically gave the view that chemical attacks were a red line. intervention would not go beyond that, but if. he's in the very -- she agreed they need to do something about that. i think in syria he's driven by two different things. what did obama do? i'll do the opposite.
at least in the mideast, he's still drainvolved momentarily. the big caveat to that was the airstrike from last year, so now he's boxed who came to him, and an exhibition of real compassion from the president. then just days ago, julian said, the u.s. should be out of it and leave this to spbls. is he likely re-evaluating what he just. >> we don't know how much more this will entail, whether it's a strike or something grand. we don't know really where the president goes with that. there was a reason that obama
was hesitant to enter into this. he had a certain blindness to what was going on. we need to watch. and again, this is where the lack of any kind of doctrine or larger sense of advice becomes problematic with the president. >> there's a lot of i.c.e. going around. some people, including lindsey graham, are weighing in on this and getting the president to live up to his tweets. >> if he has a tweet from russia and iran, this is a defining moment. you need to follow up with that tweet. show a resolve that obama never did to get this right. >> we can't have foreign policy following up on tweets. i think the argument is wrong. and we can't use the tweets for
a lopprecedent of what he's goi to do given the tweets. i'm not sure senator many. >> i wholeheartedly agree. the only thing did you mean measure, would be taking some kind of. you've blocked yourself in to a provocative response that doesn't make sense strategically or militarily. he needs to sit down with our allies and figure out a proper response. >> allies and perhaps even advisers in the white house, julian, or at the department of defense? pentagon? >> all of the above. and this is where this white
house oval office style we're talking about becomes problematic. he needs the input of the national security council. this is the time he needs not to tweet but to discuss, to think, and to figure out before he takes that sfirs step where this is going. >> this is not a game. th thank you very much. catch and release is turning into catch and detain. the president has a new man date for handling border crossings. this as u.s. troops are being deployed to the border. that's next. you can use homequote explorer. quiet. i'm blasting my quads. janice, look.
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four days after president trump proclaimed more national guard troops would be deployed to the mexican border, at least 250 will be deployed tomorrow. we describe their role. >> we know the national guard can't legally apprehend anybody trying to get across the border, so what exactly will they do? >> there is a lot they can do. the president said something separately that wasn't as well reported, and that is that he put out a mandate not to catch
and release but to catch and detain. so the guard can do whatever the federal government in this case is is authorized to do. we've chosen them to protect the officers getting these border crossers. >> they've been deployed to the border town of gazo, texas. >> they are joining the 200 troops that governor abbott already sent there and don't forget the 150 troops that were already sent to arizona as well. they are liaisons with their federal partners coming here to assess the needs and resources
of each of the sectors as they have divided up and organized the border of texas. meetings began yesterday morning with department of homeland security, customs and border patrol agents as the first wave of national guard troops came to texas. this tweet from the texas national guard saying they are currently on the ground with customs and border patrol preparing for more options and troop deployment. a handshake taking place at the rio grande valley with the national guard leader as well as a border patrol agent. that sort of handshake photo is really the only evidence we're seeing of the presence of these federal troops in the state of texas. beyond those photos and another taken of a meeting that happened yesterday morning of these troops on the texas-mexico border because they are
assessing their needs here. as we heard in that conversation with tom bossert, these troops will not be here in a law enforcement capacity. they are here to support the customs and border control agents. that means national guard troops will be doing the desk jobs. they will be the eyes, whether that be through surveillance to all allow. >> all right, kaylee hartung, thanks for that. bill cosby's trial is set for tomorrow with opening statements first. we'll have more on that, next. termites. we're on the move.
less than a year after his first trial ended in a hung jury, bill cosby will stand trial again with opening statements set for tomorrow in a pennsylvania courtroom. but the procedure this time is unfolding in a markedly different atmosphere. here's cnn's jean casarez. >> reporter: with the momentum of me too and public accusations against hollywood. >> i have been silent for 20 years. >> only one major celebrity has been charged with a felony sexual offense, america's dad, bill cosby. the comedian and tv legend's retrial beginning now -- >> the atmosphere has shifted. it's not a very favorable time to be defending yourself against
accusations. >> charged with charges of assault, the comedian could be put in prison if convicted. at the time the head of basketball in philadelphia. diana parsons is her sister and she said it took years before constance said anything happened and went to police. >> she said she just knew she had to lie down. and she said that bill cosby helped her to the couch. she said she really couldn't walk on her own. >> at her mommy. doss by denied the attlez.
the policemen at the time. she testified in a sworn dwo deposition before they reached a comprehensive settlement. fast forward to 2007. that deposition was unsealed naming people he wanted to have sex with. days before the statute of limitations ran out, cosby was charged in criminal court. the pennsylvania defense attorney brian modigal represented cosby from the beginning. he pleaded not guilty. a trial ended in a hung jury. now a new trial
before representing cosby in 2015, meserau told cnn how he would question her. >> the first thing i would say is what's more important, money or constitution? >> i remember waking up in a bed with mr. cosby naked beneath his open robe. >> in this trial the judge said five prior accusers can take the stand. the defense, for instance, wants a witness by the name of margo jackson to take the stand. she knew margo constand and constand said she could fabricate everything, that bill
cosby drugged her and assaulted her and then she could get a lot of money. constand said that was false. the case is all about credibility. jean casarez, norristown, pennsylvania. don't miss the episode of "pope," the most powerful man in history. here's a review. >> as catholics explode all over the community, catholics had a relationship, a devotion to something outside government. >> there is going to be conflict over the status of catholic youth groups and whether these youth groups ought to be under the umbrella of fascist organizations. >> there were some catholic bishops who were beaten, who had their homes and their offices ransacked. >> the church, of course, in order to operate, has to be
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trump and he took on the chaos that unfolded with china this week. >> hi, how's it going, let's make this quick because i've got a lot of trade wars to escalate here, okay? that's why i just announced more tariffs on chinese products including fireworks and finger traps. we've also expelled the infamous chinese billionaire pf chang. here's the thing that no one else is saying and i'm the only one who is willing to actually say this. i don't care about america, okay? this whole presidency is a four-year cash grab, and admitting that will probably get me four more years, okay, but i do not care about any of you, okay? does that basically answer all of your questions? okay, does it? okay. >> "snl." we've got so much more straight ahead in the newsroom and it all starts right now. hello again, everyone, and
thanks so much for being with me. i'm fredricka whitfield. president trump sends a rare warning to russian president vladimir putin. he will have a big price to pay after a chemical attack in war-torn syria, killing and injuring dozens of women and children. activists say syrian military helicopters dropped barrel bombs filled with toxic gas, sufficient indicati suffocating residents and sending others into convulsions. this comes one year after other chemical attacks in syria. this happened outside the capital of damascus, and we want to warn you some of the images you're about to see are graphic and they are disturbing. cnn can't independently verify these images taken from anti-government, and you can see the hospitals