Return to Transcripts main page


Appeals Court To Hear Arguments On Travel Ban; Amnesty: Thousands Executed In Syrian Prison; U.N. Envoy: Israeli Law Crosses "Thick Red Line"; Growing International Condemnation Of New Israeli Law; Putin Decriminalizes Some Domestic Violence. Aired 3-4p ET

Aired February 7, 2017 - 15:00   ET




[15:00:21] HALA GORANI, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, everyone. I'm Hala Gorani. We are live at CNN London. Thanks for being with us on this Tuesday. This is


We begin this evening with a court case that will be happening on the west coast of the United States, but will have big ramifications right across

the world.

We're just a few hours away from a hearing that could decide the immediate fate of Donald Trump's travel ban. The panel of judges is set to hear

arguments from both sides in about three hours on the controversial executive order. Mr. Trump addressed the issue earlier today. Listen.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: We'll see what happens. We have a big court case. We're well represented and we're going

to see what happens.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Will it go to the Supreme Court, you think?

PRESIDENT TRUMP: It could. We'll see. Hopefully it doesn't have to. It's common sense. You know, some things are law, and I'm all in favor of

that, and some things are common sense. This is common sense.


GORANI: CNN's Dan Simon is outside the Ninth Circuit Court in San Francisco and joins me live. Tell us what to expect in the coming hours,


DAN SIMON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, hi, Hala. This is going to be taking place in just a few hours. This is going to be an hour-long hearing, half

an hour for each side to make their argument. And it's possible that this three-judge panel here at the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals could have a

ruling as early as this evening.

And we're really expecting three scenarios. The first one could be is that the suspension is upheld, meaning that visa holders from those

predominantly seven Muslim countries would continue to be able to travel to the United States.

The second option is that the suspension could be overturned and that the ban is once again in place or, maybe there's a third option, where parts of

the president's executive action are enforced and others are tossed out. But, maybe a ruling as early as this evening -- Hala.

GORANI: All right. And after that ruling, I mean, regardless of which side loses or wins, the other side is expected to appeal beyond that?

SIMON: That's exactly right. This is almost a certainty to go to the United States Supreme Court, and with the court ideologically split, 4-4,

obviously, we have a vacancy in the court, that this decision coming from the Ninth Circuit takes on a great deal of importance, because if you do

have a split, then the decision would then defer to whatever happens here. So all eyes on the Ninth Circuit tonight -- Hala.

GORANI: All right, Dan Simon, that circuit court more important than ever in its ruling. Let's get more on this court hearing. I'm joined from New

York by our CNN senior legal analyst, Jeffrey Toobin.

Let's talk a little bit, Jeffrey, about the crux of the case, of the lawyers for the Trump administration. Let me read out a part of the brief

that the Department of Justice filed.

"Even if some relief were appropriate, the court's sweeping nationwide injunction is vastly overboard, extending far beyond the state's legal

claims to encompass numerous applications of the order that the state does not even attempt to argue are unlawful."

What struck me here is, even if some relief were appropriate, according to the Justice Department, what should we read into that?

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: Well, the Justice Department brief is a scathing attack on every aspect of the trial court's decision to

stop President Trump's order from going into effect. And, you know, Hala, this is a very difficult case under American law, because there is -- there

are good arguments on both sides.

The Justice Department makes the point that the president is responsible for protecting our borders, from supervising immigration policy. But the

plaintiffs, that is, the state of Minnesota and the state of Washington, make the argument that the federal government is not allowed to

discriminate on the basis of national origin, on the basis of religion, and that's what's implicit, they say, in this order. Those are conflicting

values, here, and the judges are going to have to sort that out.

GORANI: But, don't they have a constitutional justification for arguing that there shouldn't be discrimination based on religion or country of


TOOBIN: Well, they do have an argument, but it is also true that constitutional rights are different at the border than they are inside the


[15:05:11]You know, a police officer can't come up to you and say, I want to -- I want to look inside your backpack. You can't do that in the United

States without a warrant, but when you're coming into the country, we have something called Customs, and they can look into anything they want.

That's just one example of how the law is different at the border than it is inside the country. The government is allowed to make some distinctions

based on background of the people coming in, about who to let in and who not to let in. The question is, can they do it in a discriminatory way?

And that's the issue in this case.

GORANI: And also -- I imagine, also, the question is, if there is no evidence that the people they are blocking from entering the country could

present a threat. I mean, historically, it hasn't been the case.

TOOBIN: Well, that's -- that's part of the issue in this case, is what constitutes a threat? You know, what kind of association with terrorism

justifies keeping someone out of the country? President Trump has said anyone from Syria is not going to be allowed in. No Syrian refugees.

Now, that's something that does appear to conflict with our immigration law, which says, you can't categorically rule out an entire group of people

based on national origin. That's, again, one of the issues in this case.

GORANI: So, if the Trump administration wins their argument and as a result this court of appeals rules that it is -- that what the judge, the

federal judge did in suspending parts of this travel ban, that that decision should be overturned, does this set a precedent?

TOOBIN: It certainly does, but it may not be a very long-lasting precedent because, you know, in the United States courts, there are three levels.

There are the trial courts, and it was the trial court that issued this injunction that said this rule would not go into effect.

And then we have the court of appeals, which is where the court will be -- the case will be argued today, but then we have the Supreme Court. And

it's very likely, I think, given the importance of this case, that this case will wind up before the Supreme Court sooner rather than later, and

that's where we'll get the last word, not in the court of appeals.

GORANI: All right, Jeffrey Toobin, thanks very much. Always appreciate having you on the program.

Let's turn our attention to Syria now. It's being described as a human slaughterhouse. Horrifying new allegations about the conditions inside a

Syrian prison run by the Assad government.

Amnesty International says up to 13,000 people have been secretly and systemically executed at the (inaudible) Prison north of Damascus. The

report says up to 50 people are routinely hanged in one night, most of them political prisoners.

This is, by the way, an animation provided by Amnesty International that you're seeing there. Witnesses described how detainees are beaten,

tortured, and even forced to rape other inmates. Here's what one of the survivors had to say.


ANAS HAMADO, FORMER PRISONER (through translator): When they bring food, it sounds like a battle in every cell. They take out the head of the cell

or two others, to be beaten. You hear sounds, your heart drops to the floor, and you begin to shake. You can't control it.


GORANI: Well, Amnesty says the prison is part of a calculated policy of extermination by the Syrian regime.


NICOLETTE WALDMAN, AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL RESEARCHER: These large-scale practices have been going on since 2011, and they are so widespread, so

routine that there is no way that this could not have been authorized at the highest levels of the government.


GORANI: Well, let's get more from our senior international correspondent, Clarissa Ward, who's been looking into this story. When you read that

Amnesty report, it's almost possible to imagine that anybody, any human being would inflict this type of treatment on another, yet not only is it

happening, it's happening on an industrial scale.

CLARISSA WARD, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: It's so hard to get through this report, Hala, because it is just horrific. It's not just a

question of the brutality, but the way it was so systemic. It was highly organized. It was ruthlessly efficient extermination.

The kind of thing we're more used to seeing when we talk about prison camps during the Second World War. And what is even more striking is that when

you look at the types of people who would have been held in the prison, we're not talking about the most ruthless terrorists or the most barbaric

ISIS fighters.

We're talking about anyone who might have had the most tangential relationship to the operation. And I have met people who have spent times

in this prisons, maybe they were a doctor who treated a rebel fighter, a family member who's a part of the opposition, maybe a media activist.

[15:10:08]It doesn't matter how strong the linkage is or what the crime is, they end up in these prisons and most of them never leave.

GORANI: It's about exterminating the opposition completely, annihilating it.

WARD: It is. It's a form of annihilation, extermination, systemic torture, systemic killing, and this isn't the first time, by the way, that

we're seeing this. This isn't an isolated event. It was just a couple of years ago, we heard from a very well-known defector from the Syrian

military police, he went by the code name "Cesar."

He had photographic documentation of 11,000 prisoners who had passed through his prison, he took photographs of every single one of their

bodies, the torture that they had undergone, registering everything. And what's so striking about that is not just the fact that you would torture

and kill 11,000 people, but that you would document it.

GORANI: And by the way, we have some elements of, I mean, some photos that are, you know, pixilated, as we say, but we still want to warn -- or

blacked out in some cases, but warn our viewers, that this is extremely disturbing because these are some of the pictures that this man, code name

"Cesar," essentially, wanted to show the world.

WARD: He wanted to show the world. And again, they are hard to watch, but somehow, there seems to be a responsibility to look at them, because, what

it shows, these photographs, are not just the brutality, but the idea that you would record them.

That you would document them. That there's no shame associated with these acts. And there's no question that we have seen opposition members and

particularly from the more extremist groups, carrying out killing of detainees, extra judicial killings, things of that nature, but not in the

same scale, and not in the same systemic way.

GORANI: Yes, when you document things in a clerical way this way, an administrative way, you file -- you document, you put numbers, essentially,

this has to mean that on some level, this being authorized and this documentation is being requested. You're not covering up this crime,


WARD: No, clearly, this had to be, as you heard from the Amnesty International woman who wrote the report, this was going to the highest

levels. This was part of an official policy, whether or not the regime chooses to accept or admit to it.

GORANI: And finally, Bashar al-Assad, the president of Syria, after all these years of war, he was basically on the brink of potentially falling,

and then it seems as though now, it's been accepted pretty much that he's going to remain in place.

WARD: There's a perception among some quarters that maybe he's the lesser of two evils, that at least he has control of the state, that at least

there's some modicum of law and order, that at least his atrocities are contained within Syria's borders, unlike ISIS, but that's a very myopic and

short-term view.

And when you read the torture methods that were being used in this prison, in Sednaya, they are just as brutal and medieval and bestial as the types

of torture methods that ISIS is using, too. And as long as you have this sort of hellhole where you have this systemic killing, you're going to have

hideous groups like ISIS emerging from that.

GORANI: Absolutely. Thanks very much, Clarissa Ward for joining us on this important story. We'll have more on this later in the program. We'll

talk to the mother of a man who died in Syrian prison.

Still to come this evening, Palestinians call it an attack on our people and they're urging the world to intervene. We'll have reaction from all

corners to Israel's new law that supporters are calling a success for the settlers.

Vladimir Putin puts his signature to a new law decriminalizing some domestic violence. Critics are outraged. We'll have a report from Moscow

later on that story. Do stay with us. We'll be right back.



GORANI: The United Nations' Middle East envoy says a new Israeli law crosses a "thick red line," quote/unquote, and could have drastic

consequences. Israel's parliament has voted to legalize thousands of settler homes the built on private Palestinian land in the West Bank.

Many are in small outposts, as they're called, long considered illegal under Israeli law. A government minister, who supports the bill, calls it

an historic move towards establishing Israeli sovereignty over the entire West Bank.

In other words, annexation, forget the two-state solution. Israeli human rights groups are vowing to appeal to the Supreme Court. The government's

own attorney general has called the legislation unconstitutional.

And the European Union, Arab League, Turkey, Britain, and France are among those condemning the new league today. French President Francois Hollande

is urging them to reconsider the bill and refocus on a two-state solution. He met with the Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in Paris.


FRANCOIS HOLLANDE, FRENCH PRESIDENT (through translator): The Israeli parliament yesterday adopts a text which, if it is confirmed by the

constitutional court, will have, as a consequence the legislation of uncontrolled settlements and would open the way to the annexation of the

occupied territories, contrary to the two-state solution.

MAHMOUD ABBAS, PALESTINIAN AUTHORITY PRESIDENT (through translator): We do not accept the last Israeli government of the construction of thousands of

homes on our land occupied since 1967. It's an aggression against our people, one that we are putting forward to the international community.

And we demand that the international community help us put into application Resolution 2334 of the Security Council before it's too late.


GORANI: That was the Palestinian leader, Mahmoud Abbas. He's asking the international community to intervene. The law is the latest in Israel, in

a series of pro-settlement moves since U.S. President Donald Trump took office after yesterday's vote.

A right-wing Israeli lawmaker actually thanked the American people for electing Mr. Trump, saying the law probably wouldn't have passed without


We're joined now by Ian Lee, covering the latest developments from Jerusalem, and our senior diplomatic correspondent, Michelle Kosinski, live

at the State Department.

Michelle, I want to start with you. Was the Trump administration given a heads up by the Israeli prime minister?

MICHELLE KOSINSKI, CNN SENIOR DIPLOMATIC CORRESPONDENT: I mean, they knew that this was coming, and when you look at the pattern over the last

several months, yes, I mean, I think this was expected, but the White House isn't commenting on it. In fact, it's remarkable in their lack of comment

on this.

When you see the condemnation from other sources, from the U.N., from the French, the other ones that you listed there, too, the U.S. is basically

saying, well, President Trump is going to speak with Benjamin Netanyahu this month. We'll have more then.

And they refer back to a statement that they made, I think it was last week. It was a departure, but a very weak departure from what the

administration has been saying. You know, during the campaign, the Trump team stood side by side with Israel.

Donald Trump blasted the Obama administration for abstaining from that vote in the U.N. that denounced the settlements. But now in this latest

statement, it says, existing settlements aren't an impediment to peace, but expanding settlement activity may not be helpful.

So that is a little bit of a criticism there. It's not very strong, but I think what's really stark is when you compare the response of this

administration, and today, its complete lack of a response to this latest vote to the kinds of things the Obama administration was saying, only weeks

and months ago, that's where you get the big gap.

You know, the Obama administration used terms like, settlement activity amounts to perpetual occupation. That this isn't how friends treat each

other. That Israel reneged on its promises.

[15:20:11]And they called settlement activity deeply troubling. Well, the Trump administration is saying none of that. They're saying, we don't

really have a solid position. Let's meet with Israel and we'll have more later, basically -- Hala.

GORANI: Yes. And Ian in Jerusalem, is this law a done deal or it can still be challenged?

IAN LEE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, it still can be challenged, Hala, and it will be challenged. "Peace Now" said that they are going to challenge it.

They made that announcement right after this law passed and it will go to Israel's supreme court of justice.

And speaking with experts, they say that it really doesn't have a chance, because, according to Israeli law, the Knesset doesn't have power to

legislate over that isn't part of Israel, that being the West Bank. Currently, the body that oversees the West Bank is the Israeli army and so,

the Israeli army is in charge, not the Knesset.

GORANI: And Ian, also, what is the feeling within Israel? One right-wing lawmaker said this couldn't have happened basically without Donald Trump.

Are some wings of the -- within the Israeli political spectrum to the right feeling emboldened by the election of Donald Trump?

LEE: Well, this law, Hala, is incredibly controversial. Watching the Knesset last night as the law was being passed, you had a lot of people

celebrating, supporting this. But you did have Israeli lawmakers who urged caution, saying, if this law passes, Israeli politicians, Israeli military

officers, they could be brought in front of the International Criminal Court.

Also, we're hearing from the Palestinians who were condemning this, the secretary general of the executive committee of the PLO. He said, all

Israeli settlements in occupied Palestine are illegal and a war crime regardless of any law passed by the Israeli parliament or any decision

taken by any Israeli judge.

The Israeli Settlement Enterprise negates peace and the possibility of the two-state solution. And Hala, that's really what is at risk here,

according to the international community and the Palestinians is, this idea of a two-state solution.

And that's been the bedrock of the peace process here, supported by previous U.S. presidents, whether they be Republicans or Democrats and they

say more of that West Bank land that's chipped away, the less likelihood of a viable Palestinian state -- Hala.

GORANI: All right, Ian Lee, thanks very much and Michelle Kosinski at the State Department, appreciate it.

To France now and that tightly fought presidential campaign that's been mired in scandal. Over the past few days, we've been telling you how

Francois Fillon is battling to just stay in the race after allegations of corruption.

Now Emanuel Macron has been forced to deny that he's had an extramarital affair with another man. Here's what he had to say.


EMMANUEL MACRON, FRENCH PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE (through translator): For those who want to spread the rumor that I am deceitful, that I have hidden

lives and what have you, not only is it unpleasant for Brigitte, but I promise that from morning until night, she shares my whole life with me.

She's wondering how I could physically do it.


GORANI: Well, that last comment, seemingly a reference to the troubles his rivals is having after accusations that Fillon used taxpayer moneys to pay

his wife for work that she may or may not have done.

Vladimir Putin has signed a law that decriminalizes some forms of domestic violence. It's called the slapping law, appropriately. It means no crime

has been committed if it's a first-time offense and doesn't seriously injure the victim. Critics describe the move as dangerous. CNN's Claire

Sebastian has this story from Moscow.


CLAIRE SEBASTIAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): For 22-year-old Masha (ph), the abuse she suffered at the hands of her stepfather is still fresh

in her mind.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): My brother and I were playing in our room, and he accidentally fell over. My stepfather thought for some

reason that it was me that pushed me. He beat me so badly that the next day I had black bruises all over my body.

SEBASTIAN: Masha (ph) is now happily married with a 2-year-old son. For legal reasons, we are concealing her face and real name because her

stepfather was never charged with any crime.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): The police dismissed it. They said, it happens. The child was punished. It was just a family row.

YULIA GORBUNOVA, HUMAN RIGHTS WATCH: The message is that bruises are OK and it sort of echoes a response that police usually gives to victims of

domestic violence, which is, unfortunately, you know, well, contact us when you're in the hospital.

[15:25:03]SEBASTIAN (on camera): It's because domestic violence victims in Russia already feel they're often ignored or dismissed, that there's so

much concern about a new law that softens punishment for domestic violence. If it's a first offense and doesn't cause serious medical harm, it's no

longer considered a criminal offense.

(voice-over): The legislation, which focuses on forms of battery, comes just six months after Russia de-criminalized minor assault, but made an

exception for domestic violence, angering conservative politicians.

VITALY MILONOV, RUSSIAN PARLIAMENT MEMBER: This attacks the traditional family because government shouldn't put its red face into small conflicts

between man and women, between the husband and the wife.

SEBASTIAN (on camera): So you're not worried that this law will make domestic violence victims who are already frightened to speak up even more

frightened to do so?

MILONOV: This law frightens only human rights organizations in international observers and feminist groups and lesbian groups.

SEBASTIAN (voice-over): The increasingly powerful Russian Orthodox Church is also in favor. It has said that criminalizing domestic violence

contradicts to moral and family values in Russian culture and those opposed to the law have struggled to be heard. These activists wanted to hold an

organized rally. Their applications were repeatedly denied. Even these individual protests, the regulation 50 meters apart, met with some


We think it will make the problem worse, one of the organizers tells me. At least when it was a criminal offense, people were afraid. In a country

divided by family values, Masha says she now lives by just one rule. Never to lay a hand on her child. Claire Sebastian, CNN, Moscow.


GORANI: Russia's president hasn't commented specifically on why he signed the law. In December, though, he said he didn't think children should be

slapped, but he also believed that, quote, "unceremonious interference in family matters is unacceptable," quote/unquote.

Next, we'll get back to American politics in President Trump's world view, Jamie Rubin is my guest, in just a few moments. We'll be right back.

And coming up, have you ever been abused on Twitter? We've got some news for you. Twitter is taking on the trolls. We'll take you through the new

measures, coming up. Stay with us.


GORANI: The U.S. president, Donald Trump, is defending his travel ban again, calling it, quote, "common sense." His executive authority the

facing a huge legal challenge today, in a case that affects people all over the world.

And just hours from now, a U.S. appeals court will hear arguments about whether the controversial ban should be reinstated. They'll start hearing

those arguments in 2-1/2 hours. We'll have that coverage for you.

Also among the stories we are covering, U.S. Vice President Mike Pence cast the tie-breaking vote to confirm Betsy DeVos as the next U.S. Education

Secretary, a controversial appointment, to say the least. It was a 51 to 50 vote. And it ends the President's most difficult confirmation battle

yet. Two Republicans actually rebelled. They joined the Democrats in voting against confirming DeVos.

Horrifying new allegations today about the conditions inside a Syrian government-run prison. Amnesty International says up to 13,000 people have

been secretly and systemically executed, many of them hanged. It says up to 50 people are routinely hanged in one night. Most of them, political


The U.S. President has been on the job for just over two weeks now, and Mr. Trump doesn't seem to be making many friends. Instead, he appears to be

embracing a White House against the world agenda.

The President has repeatedly called out a federal judge for halting his travel ban. And he's attacked journalists, pretty much daily, falsely

claiming that news outlets failed to report terrorist attacks in his latest assault. The President put Iran on notice through his national security

adviser, leading Iran's Supreme Leader to thank him for showing the world the, quote, "depth of corruption inside the U.S. government." And then, of

course, there is the issue of all those mixed messages he's been sending out on Russia.

I'm joined now by Jamie Rubin. He served as an assistant secretary of State during the Clinton administration.

A lot to great through. First, Rex Tillerson. I mean, you know, he's an experienced executive, the ex-chairman of ExxonMobil, but now he's the top

diplomat. How does he even start with this type of to-do list?



RUBIN: He's got a big job. The biggest job of the Secretary of State, probably, is to reassure American allies, and they need some reassurance

desperately. Our NATO allies need to know that the United States really will fulfill its obligations to NATO and wants to be a leader of NATO.

In Asia, a big job, because, let's face it, Rex Tillerson said some unusual things in his hearing. He essentially opened the door to a Cuban missile

crisis-type situation in the South China Sea. So our allies need some reassurance, and that's a big list of things to do for Rex.

GORANI: And look, the "Der Spiegel" magazine, for instance, in Germany, I mean, essentially wrote an editorial saying, Germany has to lead the

opposition to a president, President Trump, who's actually, quote/unquote, "dangerous," they're saying.

RUBIN: Well, we'll see how developments improve or not with Rex Tillerson in the job and Jim Mattis, the Secretary of Defense, in the job. They're

the two figures that, in Washington, are developing, you know, a reputation and I guess a status, because people are hoping that they're going to calm

the waters.

Germany is an important country, and it always has been an important country. What makes it so important right now is because European

immigration, European unity, has been seen as one of the ways in which we prevent war in this continent, which has been so dangerous for so many

centuries. And Germany is the glue now because Britain is no longer going to be part of the E.U.

And Germany's commitment to these values that Mrs. Merkel has talked about -- democracy, rule of law, you know, basically equal treatment -- these are

things that Americans used to be leading on. And unfortunately, we're not right now.

GORANI: And that political experiment, the E.U., could be in peril depending on who wins the French presidential election as well, so we'll

see. Speaking of Syria, because this Trump administration has, I mean, you could call it a fixation on ISIS because it appears to be the most commonly

referred to threat, foreign policy objective of this administration, to fight what the President calls radical Islamic terrorism.

Why constantly go back to that? There are many, many other foreign policy issues that are important to America.

RUBIN: I think there's two reasons. Number one, Donald Trump, in his campaign, made, somehow, the way Obama and previous presidents dealt with

terrorism one of the main themes. And that's the basis, partially, for his overemphasis on immigration as a solution for counterterrorism.

The fact is that all of the countries involved and the people that have come from those seven countries have not been the ones that have been

involved in terrorist incidents in the United States. They've tended to be first generation immigrants or others of that kind, American-born, not

people who got visas from Iraq, who were helping the United States military and its operations there.

GORANI: And so they're not refugees, you could say.

RUBIN: And not refugees.


[15:35:02] RUBIN: So this has been a misplaced focus. And I think the real reason is, it's the one thing all their top officials agree on. If

you try to figure out what is, you know, the theme that holds together General Flynn, Donald Trump, Rex Tillerson, Jim Mattis, the other former

generals -- I mean, we got a pack of former of generals, we got the real generals, and then we have the President.

And so that one theme, Islamic terrorism, is probably one where they all share thinking. On the other issues, they diverge widely.


RUBIN: On Iran, on Russia, things like that.

GORANI: Let's talk about Russia because we heard from the U.S. Ambassador to the U.N., Nikki Haley, saying, essentially, unless Crimea is returned to

Ukraine, sanctions will stay in place. Yet during the campaign and in the first few days of the Trump administration, we heard perhaps overtures and

friendlier messages directed at Russia. So which is it? I guess people are still trying to figure that out.

RUBIN: Well, I once worked for the U.S. Ambassador to the U.N., and especially in the early days, they try not to say things that aren't

approved. So clearly, this was an approved statement, which laid out the argument for keeping sanctions on Russia, for its invasion of Ukraine.

But -- and this is the problem -- the President, who is the single-most important decision maker, has inexplicably avoided criticizing -- and I'd

listened to a hundred or more statements by President Trump than Donald Trump. He has never, to my knowledge criticized, Vladimir Putin's Russia

for invading another country. And unless you believe there's something wrong with that, then the rationale for sanctions evaporates, and that's

why people are so concerned.

Tillerson, on the other hand, laid out the rationale very clearly in his testimony. So people are worried that, yes, he said that, and that's their

position today, but will it be there tomorrow or next week?

GORANI: And another big, of course, foreign policy issue is Iran. And we have some new sanctions by the Trump administration against Iran for a

ballistic missile tests. So some tension there and a war of words, as well. I mean, will that threaten the deal, I guess, is kind of important.

RUBIN: Well, that's exactly the right question. There's two streams of activity. One is, what's going to happen to the nuclear agreement, which

was Obama's singular and most important legacy? And solved a problem, frankly, that the western world has been struggling with for 10, 2 years.

So this was a big solution.

And every time we get evidence that the Trump team is not going to eliminate American participation, as Donald Trump said during the campaign,

I think that's probably pretty good news. And that's what we're sort of sensing from things that they've said and things that they've done.

But, General Flynn, in particular, the national security adviser, and the President have regularly pointed to Iranian activities that they want to

respond with force, whether it's a ship, you know, disrespecting an American sailor or whether it's a missile test or what it will be in Iraq

or Syria, where Iran has a big influence. So people are worried that, yes, the nuclear agreement might stay, but one of these other issues is going to

be picked up by the administration and used as an excuse to start a shooting war. And I am sorry to say that that is a possibility.

GORANI: All right. Well, let's hope it doesn't get to that. About Syria, Assad, the President -- well, actually, in fact, we've already talked about

that. But what do you think the future is of, essentially, the situation in Syria and the Middle East and ISIS? Are we looking at the old guard,

that autocratic, dictatorial sort of old guard remaining in place?

We know that, for instance, the President Trump had a call with Abdel Fattah el-Sisi of Egypt. He seems to think he is doing a great job.

RUBIN: Well, there's this goofy notion that has gotten into some people in the United States that, somehow, all these dictators or autocrats work

great at solving the terrorism problem from the Middle East. They forget that it was under those dictators where the terrorism problem began and

9/11 was happening before the Arab spring.

So President Trump has got that wrong. The problem here is that, in Syria, there is not going to be an end to this war. Yes, it looks like Assad has

stayed in power. It looks like that he's not --

GORANI: With the help of Russia and Iran and Abdel Fattah, yes.

RUBIN: With the help of Russia, and particularly Iran. But that doesn't mean the people are going to stop fighting. There are so many small

battles, so many grudges and hatreds that have developed during this slaughter of hundreds of thousands of people. Think of all the families,

of all the people who were hung in the prison that you just reported about.

So there's no sign that the powers that be, such as they are, are going to have the influence or the inclination to really bring together all the

parties and stop the war. So I see that war going on for a long time, I'm sorry to say.

[15:40:10] GORANI: There's certainly no going back to the pre-2011 period, in Syria or anywhere else, it seems. Jamie Rubin, always a pleasure.

RUBIN: Thank you.

GORANI: Thanks for coming on. We appreciate it.

The travel ban has put at least one mother and father in a heartbreaking position, thousands of kilometers away from their son. The 2-year-old boy

is in the U.S. receiving medical treatment, but President Trump's order means he's left with a caregiver, away from his parents. CNN's Dr. Sanjay

Gupta has that story.


DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Last week, I traveled to Michigan to meet this sweet 2-year-old boy, Dilbireen.

A year ago, Dilbi was living in this refugee camp in northern Iraq when a fire sparked by a heater left him permanently disfigured. Dilbi and his

parents were granted medical visas to come to the United States for care at Shriners Hospital for Children in Boston.

In her third trimester of pregnancy, though, Dilbi's mom, Flosa, stayed behind. When it was time for her to give birth, Dilbi's dad, Ajeel,

returned to Iraq, leaving his son in the care of Adlay Kejjan, a kind- hearted volunteer whom he had just met.

GUPTA (on camera): Do you have any idea how many procedures they say he will need still?

ADLAY KEJJAN, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, YAZIDI AMERICAN WOMEN ORGANIZATION: I'm not sure. They say up to a year. As he's growing, they need to kind of

loosen up the scar tissue.

GUPTA (on camera): So he needs to get this care?

KEJJAN: Yes. So the eye, this one is the main concern.

GUPTA (voice-over): In December, when Dilbi's new baby brother was old enough to travel, they applied for his visa, so the family could reunite

with Dilbi. The application was denied.

Now, when Ajeel and Flosa appealed that decision in January, the baby's visa was denied again. And this time, their visas were revoked because

they were, quote, "unable to establish clearly that their stay in the United States would be temporary."

As a parent, it's hard to imagine not being able to get to your child when they need you the most.

Sunday morning in Iraq, Dilbi's parents are on their way back to the U.S. consulate in Erbil. Ajeel asks Flosa if she thinks they'll get their visas

this time. "I'm hopeful, God willing," she says.

Today, the United States not only has a new President, but also a new executive order, a 90-day travel ban that bars Iraqi citizens from entering

the United States.

"It's hard not knowing if they're going to give us a visa or not," Ajeel says.

AJEEL MUHSIN, DILBIREEN'S FATHER (through translator): We're not going for a vacation. We are going to do the surgery on our child and return back


GUPTA (voice-over): And despite the temporary stay to this travel ban, Ajeel is turned away at the door, denied entry into the consulate, unable

to plead his family's case. He's given no explanation. All part of the chaos and confusion surrounding this executive order.

"We lost our homes and our property," he says.

MUHSIN (through translator): But the most important thing is to make sure our boy is healthy.

Dr. Shirzad Khaleel, medical coordinator for the U.K. charity, Road to Peace, which arranged Dilbi's care in the United States, has a message for

American authorities. "We hope you guys do the right thing for the sake of humanity," he says.

DR. SHIRZAD KHALEEL, MEDICAL COORDINATOR, ROAD TO PEACE (through translator): All of these children are victims of ISIS.

GUPTA (voice-over): Asked to deliver a message directly to their son, Ajeel says --

MUHSIN (through translator): I am hopeful we will come soon. Finish up all of your operations, and after that, we will return to Iraq. We love


GUPTA (voice-over): Dr. Sanjay Gupta, CNN, reporting.


GORANI: One final update on President Trump before we leave U.S. politics. He said today that he would destroy the career of a Texas politician. He

made the comments at a meeting with law officials at the White House. One sheriff spoke up about a state senator who introduced legislation that he

disagreed with. Listen.


SHERIFF HAROLD EAVENSON, ROCKWALL COUNTY, TEXAS: We've got a state senator in Texas. He was talking about introducing legislation to require

conviction before we can receive that forfeiture money.


EAVENSON: And I told him that the cartel would build a monument to him in Mexico if he could get that legislation to stay.

TRUMP: Who is the state senator? Do you want to give his name? We'll destroy his career.


GORANI: That got a chuckle out of the people around this President.

Still to come, we'll have more on that disturbing new report from Amnesty International about mass hangings at a Syrian prison.

The mother of a British doctor who says her son was murdered in a Damascus jail is my guest, next.


[15:46:42] GORANI: We want to return now to Amnesty International's report on what it calls a, quote, "human slaughterhouse in Syria." The prison

where the regime is allegedly carrying out mass hangings and, essentially, extermination of political opponents.

Four years ago, we reported on the death of a British doctor in another Syrian prison. Abbas Khan was a father of two from south London. His

family says the doctor was tortured by Syrian authorities and ultimately murdered, even though they said he killed himself. A British jury found

the case of Khan's death to be unlawful.

Dr. Khan's mother, Fatima Khan, joins me now. Thank you for being with us.


GORANI: It's still very hard, isn't it?

KHAN: It is. It is hard. It's hard for mothers. And then the 13,000 bodies they found, I heard.

GORANI: Or they estimate that 13,000 people were executed at that prison.

KHAN: They killed children, ma'am. They don't realize what mothers face, you know? The pain is too much. It's too hard.

GORANI: Tell us about your son, Abbas. Because he traveled to Syria --

KHAN: Yes, ma'am.

GORANI: -- in 2012. He said he wanted to help people there and then disappeared.

KHAN: Yes. Even in prison, when I met him, he told me, "Mummy, look what they are doing to doctors. My profession is to save lives. I came to help

injured people, and look the way they are torturing me. They beat me up every day."

Eight months, he was in torture prison. They used to pick up five, 10 people, take them, beat them up. And some, they come back to cell; some

they don't. It means they kill them randomly. They pick up anybody.

GORANI: Because what happened is, he disappeared for several weeks, you didn't know where he was.

KHAN: That's right, ma'am.

GORANI: And you traveled alone to Damascus. For weeks you asked, have you seen my son? Have you seen my son?

KHAN: Yes, I've been to every prison. I was asking. They were holding guns against me. The moms were there. And it was a scary place, ma'am.

The whole Damascus was like a prison.

GORANI: Such a brave, brave thing to do, as a mother. And finally, you were given word, yes?

KHAN: Yes.

GORANI: Your son is being held and you saw him.

KHAN: Every judge says that your son have no charges on him. We don't know why he is here, why they are not releasing. Even the judges was

telling me. They say that we are waiting from the Ministry to give us go ahead to release.

GORANI: And Mrs. Khan, when you saw Abbas, after eight months, what did he tell you happened to him?

KHAN: He was happy to see me. He was very happy to see me. But he said, "Mummy, I'm sorry, I shouldn't have come. But I only came to help injured.

I couldn't see their suffering."

Because I think his consultant was a Syrian manager, so he was influenced with so many are suffering. And he himself was an orthopedic surgeon, so

he went there to help injured people. He spent his own wages to take medicines.


KHAN: At least, the doctors they shouldn't kill.


KHAN: Their intention is to save lives, not to fight.

GORANI: And then the worst news you could ever get, at the end of that year. They said he hung himself. He hanged himself, but you don't believe


[15:50:01] KHAN: No. No. Two days ago, he phoned me that everything is fine. "Mummy, it's all over. They are going to release me."

And all of a sudden, they say, come and take him. I was happy. I thought they are releasing him, but they gave me his dead body.

I hope Trump is there so, Mr. Donald Trump, he might do something good to change this regime. This regime is just killing people. They don't know

what to do.

GORANI: And you saw in this report that, you know, they're saying that these prisons use methods like hanging and torture.

KHAN: Yes.

GORANI: I'm so sorry.

KHAN: It's awful, ma'am.

GORANI: I'm so sorry for you.

KHAN: Thank you so much.

GORANI: Thank you so much for -- thank you.

KHAN: You're most welcome. I request Mr. Donald Trump to help this country save people, save from any more killings.

GORANI: Well, we don't know what the politicians will do, do we?

KHAN: That's right, we don't.

GORANI: Thank you, Fatima Khan.

KHAN: Thank you.

GORANI: We really appreciate your time.

KHAN: Thank you.

GORANI: And again, our condolences. Thank you.

KHAN: No problem. Thank you, ma'am. Thank you.

GORANI: We'll be right back.


GORANI: Welcome back. If you've been the victim of abuse or trolling on Twitter, I've got some good news for you. The social media app is

launching new tools to help fight online harassment.

Samuel Burke joins me now with the details. How is this going to work?

SAMUEL BURKE, CNNMONEY BUSINESS AND TECHNOLOGY CORRESPONDENT: Well, Hala, there was a survey done of 3,000 Twitter users by BuzzFeed, and they found

that 90 percent -- 90 percent -- said, if they had been harassed, they never thought the social network did anything about it. They didn't get

any type of response. So it's no surprise that Twitter is rolling out these new measures.

Let me just put it up on the screen so we can walk through this step by step. Twitter says they will be preventing serial abusers from creating

new accounts. This is a constant problem on Twitter.

They will also create a safe search function. So when you go to search for different tweets, some of these abusive tweets will not show up

automatically. Though if you're trying to search out content, maybe you're trying to find a tweet that somebody was bullying somebody in, then you

will be able to find it. It gets into questions of free speech, as well.

And finally, they're going to block potentially abusive tweets into a new category called low-quality tweets. So if you sent out a tweet and you

want to see the responses, but there might be some abusive tweets in there, there'll be the separate section which you can actually open up and then

see those tweets, if you choose to.

So this is really all about giving you options. Now, you know, Donald Trump is using this platform from dawn to dusk, and you would think they

could capitalize on it. But really, Twitter is still stuck in a problem that they should have solved years ago, and so they're really playing

catch-up here.

GORANI: And it's hurt them financially.

BURKE: Absolutely. I mean, there was a time --

GORANI: Because you don't have as much of it on Facebook, for some reason.

BURKE: Facebook has been much stronger about fighting this. And there was a time where it looked like Twitter was going to be sold. And what we

heard, over and over again, is that potential investors possibly like Disney, for example, backed away in part because they were worried about

what these abusive tweets could do to their brand.

So, you know, I sit with you during the day and during the commercial breaks, and I know, especially someone like you, anchoring a show, you get

lots of these.

GORANI: No. I mean, I get some of -- some are disturbing.


GORANI: Some are actually physical, you know, threats. Some are calling me all sorts of names. Others are just insulting my integrity and my

professionalism. Some of them are actually funny insults, it has to be said.

[15:55:11] But frankly, what I do notice is that when, let's say, you do an interview and give -- the way we do it, because we're professional

journalists, we will push back. Our job is to question, you know, whatever someone says, ask them to defend their position. If it happens to be the

position of someone who's trolling me, then all of a sudden, I'll get 500, you know, insults in one day.

And it seems to me like that --

BURKE: Yes. I know it's stuff that we can't even read on CNN.

GORANI: No, no. Yes, but it does really seem to be centrally coordinated somewhere. That someone will say, go ahead, go after that one today.

Because it's the same wording, it's the same graphics, it's the same, sometimes insults themselves.

BURKE: And that's a problem that Twitter faces. So many people depend on this, especially in journalism, in politics.


BURKE: And so many young people, it's a part of their lives. And so if they want to continue using the platform, I mean, really, they've been

pushed into a corner. Either you use it or you don't use it. And you hear about this all the time.

We've seen famous actresses have to shut down their accounts and not use it for a time. So what we're trying to do with these tools, and they haven't

been ruled out yet so we have to see how effective they'll become, is trying to at least give people options.

If you're just one of those people who doesn't want to see this type of content -- some people can handle it, other people want to be able to use

the platform and be able to filter it out.

GORANI: "To be blocked by a reporter at bimbo for CNN like Hala is a badge of honor." Wear it proudly.

BURKE: So you blocked them and then they were still able to tweet that to you?

GORANI: Someone was able to tweet it, I guess.

BURKE: I think that's very telling.

GORANI: I don't know. Whatever. Get a life! That's all I'm going to say to them.

Thanks very much, Samuel Burke. We really appreciate it.

And finally, are you wondering what the ex-U.S. president is doing? According to Barack Obama, what do you do when you're done with the White

House? You go kite surfing with Richard Branson. Take a look at this photo.

Here's the former president smiling from ear to ear. He's been kicking back and enjoying a holiday with his wife and the British billionaire. Mr.

Obama wasn't just soaking up the sun. Here he is taking up some pretty active aqua sports, Samuel.

BURKE: When I saw that picture of him with Richard Branson, I actually thought it was doctored. I thought it might be fake news, actually. And I

had to go back and --

GORANI: No, it's real news. I've never seen him smile like that. When he was a sitting president, this kind of activity was restricted by the Secret

Service. But now, it's all about kite surfing.

Samuel, thanks. And thanks to all of you for watching.

This has been THE WORLD RIGHT NOW. I'm Hala Gorani. "QUEST MEANS BUSINESS" is next.