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CNN NEWSROOM

Trump Says Military to Guard U.S.-Mexico Border; Trump and Russia; Woman Opens Fire at YouTube HQ; Syria's Civil War; Yemen Conflict; Remembering MLK Jr. Aired 12-1a ET

Aired April 4, 2018 - 00:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


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ISHA SESAY, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): You're watching CNN NEWSROOM, live from Los Angeles. Ahead this hour, Donald Trump unscripted. The U.S. president offers surprising comments about Russia, Syria and immigration during a news conference with European leaders.

Plus another mass shooting makes headlines in the United States, this time one of California's top tech companies is the scene of the crime.

And millions without food, water or hope, the United Nations declares Yemen the world's worst humanitarian crisis.

Hello and thank you for joining us. I'm Isha Sesay. This is NEWSROOM L.A.

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SESAY: Well, we begin with Donald Trump's shifting priorities for the U.S. military. The president says he wants to bring American troops home from Syria, even as military planners are preparing to increase the number of U.S. forces there. Now Mr. Trump says he wants a military to protect the U.S. border with Mexico until a border wall is complete.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We don't have laws. We have catch and release. You catch and then you immediately release and people come back years later for a court case, except they virtually never come back. So what we are preparing for the military to secure our border between Mexico and the United States. We have a meeting on it in a little while with General Mattis and everybody. And I think that it is something we have to do.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SESAY: Seema Mehta is a political writer for the "L.A. Times" and Peter Matthews is a professor of political science at Cypress College.

Welcome to you both. Let's just say out loud, the president is on a roll. Since the weekend, he's been tweeting up a storm. If he's not tweeting, he's giving these conferences and making these statements that have a lot of people scratching heads.

And the administration are trying to catch up with the statements he's making. Let's start with this whole thing of getting the military to the border. Let's give our viewers context. It has happened before. We have seen under Obama and Bush the National Guard be deployed to the border.

In the case of Bush, they were used to do rebuilding work and reconstruction work. Under Obama, it was more surveillance.

Seema, do we know what the president wants them to do this time around?

Or if it's the National Guard?

SEEMA MEHTA, "THE NEW YORK TIMES": Well, initially, we didn't. They promised remarks in the press conference he just talked about the military heading to the border, which alarmed a lot of people honestly.

We have a long history in this country and it's in the law that you can't use the military to enforce domestic policy, you can't use that on American soil. But as you said the National Guard has been deployed in situations like this and exceptions have been made, for example, in 1992 when we had the riots in Los Angeles. The military was certainly deployed there.

But the White House put out a statement later this evening clarifying this. We've seen him do it a number of times recently, saying that he's talking about the National Guard. Which also raises other questions in terms of logistics, because one way to do it is to have the governors of the states affected deploy the National Guard.

But in California, Jerry Brown, I'd be very, very surprised if he deployed the National Guard.

(CROSSTALK)

MEHTA: There are ways though for the federal government to do it. But it does involve some loops. But some complications, some regulations. But when the president spoke this afternoon in that press conference, he didn't talk about the National Guard. He just talked broadly about the military.

SESAY: Peter, the president, since the weekend, has been, again, on this tear about the border. There are no -- the border law, it's a crisis. There's drugs and crime and people pouring over the border.

Is this more political messaging aimed at his base or is this really a case of political implementation?

Does he plan to actually do something?

Or is this just about the midterms coming up in November?

PETER MATTHEWS, CYPRESS COLLEGE: I think it's mostly for his political case. He wants to hang onto the small 35 percent that he has and maybe expand it a little bit. But he's trying to hold onto the base, so he can win the midterm election and keep the Republicans in place so won't get impeached by the House.

If the Democrats take over, that's a very good possibility, right?

So he's doing some operate some really amazing alternatives (INAUDIBLE), bring the military in?

Are you kidding?

The Posse Comitatus Act, which you mentioned, of 1878 prevents that. They can only play a supporting role. And the National Guard is usually used (INAUDIBLE). I think he's really playing up to his base mostly.

SESAY: Do you think he knows that, do you think he knows the limitation?

Seema, you gave me a face there.

But you think he even knows --

(CROSSTALK)

MEHTA: -- of all of the above of what you mentioned. I think first of all he's reacting to this news that's being featured prominently on his favorite network, FOX News, of a caravan of people from Central America coming through Mexico, heading toward the United States.

So I think he's reacting viscerally to that.

SESAY: And let's give our viewers context, this is an annual march where it's a human rights march, it has migrants, basically exemplifying the difficulties of making the journey.

MEHTA: I think there was some question about what the Mexican government was doing to perhaps halt their --

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MEHTA: Yes, I think it's a controversial issue. But it's been featured in certain parts of the media. I think some of his tweets over the weekend were actually moments after you'd see it on TV he'd be tweeting.

So I think that he is reacting to that viscerally as he often does. But I also think it's related to the base and the midterms, which are all connected because let's not forget, during the 2016 campaign, his whole thing, I'm going to build this wall and I'm going to make Mexico pay for it.

We aren't building the wall and Mexico isn't paying for it. So if you have to answer to your base on that, your base is disappointed that you haven't done anything on this, well, maybe sending the military or saying you're going to send the military to the border is one way to do that.

Also, this is a popular issue among Republican base voters. So if you're trying to hang onto the House, this is one way that, this is an argument, one would think, the Republicans could use to increase turnout.

SESAY: People on Capitol Hill, some of them aren't happy at all. Let me put up part of the statement by Representative Gallego. He had this to say. He's a Marine veteran and in a statement he said that the plan is an insult to our troops that would harm our military as an institution. Congress must stop this misguided scheme.

Peter, if the president is indeed serious about this, getting the military the National Guard to the border, in whatever context, do you expect this Congress to push back and push back hard?

MATTHEWS: This current Congress, Republicans dominate it, they don't want to push anything with Mr. Trump, they're afraid of him, they're worried that they might lose their home district seats in the midterms. I think he's also confused, the fact that those people coming up from Central America were political refugees, they were asylum seekers as opposed to economic refugees that are coming across the border to find jobs here. It either confused him or he --

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SESAY: Details, details, details.

MATTHEWS: Yes, right, of course.

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SESAY: (INAUDIBLE) then talk about Syria, also the U.S. military involved there, the president, again, this started with a speech he gave last week in Ohio, basically shocked everyone, at least on his military advisers' team, they're saying he wants U.S. troops to come home.

Seema, I guess my question is, what is driving this, bearing in mind his military advisers have been very, very clear, this fight is not over against ISIS?

MEHTA: I think this is something he talked about during the campaign, the idea that the United States are really committed to helping other people in other regions of the world, that people in those regions need to take responsibility for their future.

The problem with ISIS is first of all, while ISIS has -- they've lost so much territory, the American military has been very successful in clawing back the land, they are still dug in, in a small part of Syria.

And the fear I think among the military advisers is that, if we leave, A, there will be a vacuum where they could regain some power or, B, give other nations, like Turkey and Iran, who have their own interests, who might --

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SESAY: And Russia.

MEHTA: -- and Russia, I'm sorry, the biggest one I'm leaving it out. But that might use that as an opportunity to focus on their own strategic, you know, priorities. So I think there are a lot of concerns among --

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SESAY: Let's take a listen to what the president said in the White House on Tuesday on this matter.

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TRUMP: I want to get out. I want to bring our troops back home. I want to start rebuilding our nation. We will have, as of three months ago, $7 trillion in the Middle East over the last 17 years. We get nothing, nothing out of it, nothing.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SESAY: Peter, what I find interesting about what the president is saying with regard to the U.S. involvement in Syria, is he frames the engagement as purely a cost, an economic cost to the U.S. and not at all, when he speaks publicly, about the national security gain to this country, in the sense that being involved in the fight against ISIS ultimately keeps America safe, that's just the reality of it.

Why does he do that?

Or does he not understand that?

I mean, I ask that without trying to be cynical about it.

What's going on here?

MATTHEWS: I think it goes along with America first agenda and he has to tell these, you know, right wing populists that voted for him that number one comes America. We're going to take care of our country. We're going to pull troops out of places that are not paying for their way.

And he's not looking at the overall balance of power, sophisticated way of looking at the world as most policymakers have been doing all these years. He's just completely way off from what other presidents have done or promoted in terms of our involvement in parts of the world.

It doesn't always have to be militarily. It can be economically or diplomatically. He doesn't want to have anything to do with that at all, usually speaking. He doesn't have finesse about his foreign policy. He's pretty heavy handed. SESAY: Seema, this is the president who said during the campaign -- and we have seen since -- that he defers to his military advisers on all matters military. But this time he's going rogue.

MEHTA: He's making statements. So let's actually see what happens.

SESAY: You make a good point.

MEHTA: And also, he's bringing in John Bolton as his new national security adviser, I believe, and his views are very hawkish. And he was an architect of the Iraq War. So I would like to see what his thoughts are on some of these issues.

SESAY: It would not be a White House press opportunity without a question about Russia. Take a listen to what the president had to say.

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TRUMP: I think could have a very good relationship with --

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TRUMP: -- President Putin. I think. It's possible I won't. And you will know about it, believe me, this room will know about it before I know about it. It's a real possibility that I could have a good relationship and remember this, getting along with Russia is a good thing. Getting along with China is a good thing. Getting along with other countries, including your three countries, is a good thing, not a bad thing.

So I think I could have a very good relationship with Russia and with President Putin. And if I did, that would be a great thing and it's also a great possibility that that won't happen. Who knows?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SESAY: It is such a head scratcher, every time he talks about Russia because, in that clip he talks about his relationship with Putin as if it's in a vacuum, as if we don't have the backdrop, as laid out by the intelligence agencies, of Russia meddling in the U.S. elections.

It is truly fascinating, this dissonance on the part of the president on what he says and sometimes what we hear out of his officials and his administration.

MEHTA: Well, I think you see the administration actually taking a strong --

(CROSSTALK)

MEHTA: -- we just expelled 60 Russian diplomats, basically, over the poisoning of --

(CROSSTALK) MEHTA: -- in the U.K. But yes, you're absolutely right, in that the president, his words about Putin are very different than his words about sort of --

SESAY: Everything else.

MEHTA: -- and the fact could be the audience he was speaking in front of, he was speaking with leaders from Eastern European countries, who suffered for decades under Russian rule, who are really concerned about increased Russian aggression, particularly after --

(CROSSTALK)

MEHTA: -- Crimea a couple years ago. So I thought the setting was really odd to make that statement. It also comes a couple weeks after the president called Putin and congratulated him --

(CROSSTALK)

MEHTA: -- not congratulate him and didn't bring up the fact that it basically -- he was reelected, the question of the fairness of the election is, you know, I think, well.

SESAY: Yes.

Peter, what did you make of it?

What did you make of the comments?

I mean, he did say no one's been tougher on Putin than I have. He was asked is he a friend or a foe, it was kind of like this prevaricating.

What do you make of it?

MATTHEWS: It's so inconsistent. You can't even understand where this president's coming from. On one hand, he says we want to be good friends with Russia. On the other hand, he's expelling diplomats and trying to be a tough man with it.

He needs to get a consistency and a visionary foreign policy that has principles on which it's based. And it's not he's doing it the way other presidents have done it, especially Barack Obama. I think it's time that we get the president on the right track here on this foreign policy issue, especially with countries like Russia and with Syria.

SESAY: A lot of things this president does differently, Peter.

(CROSSTALK)

SESAY: -- figured that out by now.

Seema Mehta and Peter Matthews, a pleasure, thank you, thank you so much.

MATTHEWS: Thank you.

MEHTA: Thank you.

SESAY: All right, well, the president says no one has been tougher on Russia than he has. But President Trump refused to say Tuesday whether Vladimir Putin is a friend or foe of the United States. We may get a better answer should the Russian president come calling at the White House. CNN's Brian Todd reports.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): An arrival suitable for strongmen, in Ankara, Vladimir Putin is greeted by Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Tonight, there are questions about whether Putin will soon be welcomed at the White House by President Trump.

A White House official telling CNN the president casually invited Putin to the White House during a recent phone conversation. Both sides say no formal preparations are under way but analysts believe Putin would want a meeting.

I think for Putin, himself, the idea of meeting with the top dog is always important, it's a status thing.

It could be a tense meeting, fraught with potential pitfalls for President Trump. The U.S. and Britain have been in a diplomatic battle with Putin with dozens of diplomats expelled from all three countries after Moscow was blamed for the poisoning of a former Russian spy in Britain. Today, Trump often accused of being soft on Putin was on the defensive.

Probably nobody's been tougher to Russia than Donald Trump.

The last time a top Russian official was in the Oval Office, may 2017, when Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak visited Trump the day after Trump fired FBI director James Comey. Kislyak is still a central character in the Russia investigation. Tonight, analysts warn that the former KGB colonel in the Kremlin who hasn't been to the White House since 2005 could try to manipulate Trump the next time they meet.

He focuses on the weaknesses of the leader and exploits those weaknesses. President Putin will clearly want to appear very sympathetic to President Trump and support his view of dialogue and engagement of making deals on Syria and Ukraine but while also making sure that he is strengthening divisions between Congress and the White House.

Putin is a master at playing mind games during these meetings. From his own imposing body language, to making his counterpart cringe. In 2007, knowing German chancellor Angela Merkel was terrified of dogs, Putin brought his --

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TODD (voice-over): huge black Labrador, Connie, into the room. Putin smirked, Merkel put on a brave face. She did not blink because she understands the Russian mindset. She

knows that the Russians and in this case Vladimir Putin wanted to play Russian chess with her, which means the person who blinks the first has lost.

But despite the risks and the tension, some analysts say it's always important for the American and Russian presidents to meet.

Russia is the only country on Earth that in under an hour has the ability to end life as we know it in the United States. That is a national security concern of the highest order and what that means is you have to be willing to constantly engage with the Russians.

A key question now is whether some incoming members President Trump's national security team can get him to take a tougher line on the Russians.

Incoming national security adviser John Bolton is considered hawkish regarding Russia, advocating retaliation for some of the Russians' more subversive activities. So many are watching to see whether Bolton can persuade Trump to take a tougher line on Vladimir Putin -- Brian Todd, CNN, Washington.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SESAY: Now investigators are trying to figure out why a woman stormed into YouTube's headquarters in Northern California and opened fire. Police say Nasim Aghdam shot three people then apparently took her own life with a handgun. Police believe she knew one of the victims but it's not clear if the shooting was a domestic incident.

One eyewitness told CNN he had stopped for lunch at a nearby restaurant when he heard gunfire and encountered one of the victims running away from YouTube's headquarters.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: First I heard three to four shots. I ran around the building. Went to go look. I encountered a girl running from the street to me. I grabbed her, pulled people inside the Carl's Jr., put her inside the -- open the door, open the door -- put her inside the building.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How was she coming out?

She was coming out by herself?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: By herself, running.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Was she saying anything?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, I've been shot in the leg. I've been shot in the leg. Then the second time, I heard around 10 to 11 shots and that person just got -- she shot that person up really bad, no remorse, no nothing. I mean, it was death row.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SESAY: One other person injured her ankle as people scrambled to get away from YouTube's campus. Let's bring CNN law enforcement analyst and former FBI supervisory special agent, Josh Campbell.

Josh, your first time on the show. Welcome.

JOSH CAMPBELL, CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: Thanks, great to be here.

SESAY: We have become so accustomed to learning that the perpetrators of mass shooters are male. In this case we're talking about a woman.

What went through your mind when you heard it was a female shooter?

CAMPBELL: It was very surprising. We actually covered it from the very beginning when we first got word that there shots fired. We picked up local affiliate coverage and then had our own reporters digging in.

I have to be honest, there have been, unfortunately, so many of these incidents in the United States that you start to form a picture in your mind of what it could be. As a former investigator, you look at some of the indicators and trying to narrow that down.

When word came that it was a female, it was extremely surprising. Although there have been female shooters in the United States, it's very rare. The U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation conducted a study and they looked from 2000 to 2013 at 160 what they call active shooter incidents and only six of the 160 involved females. So it was very surprising.

SESAY: We still don't have a motive. But we are learning that she did know one of the victims.

If you were investigating this or you were leading, what would be the questions you'd immediately be asking here?

CAMPBELL: Lots of questions. Obviously the first thing we're trying to determine was, was this just indiscriminate killing, did someone enter this facility in an attempt to cause mass casualties?

It doesn't look like that is the case. Obviously there's a lot we don't know and investigators will continue to dig into her and her past and basically what caused her --

(CROSSTALK)

SESAY: What triggered her?

CAMPBELL: -- what triggered it, exactly. I talked to law enforcement sources earlier tonight that indicated this investigation is going to go around the clock. So they're already digging into her past, looking at what do they know about her, was she known to law enforcement?

Those kinds of questions. But as you try to determine the motive, a lot of factors come into play. Not only you had your footprint online, whether it's social media, which is going to be looked at, but they'll also want to interview anyone who was in her orbit, family members, friends, anyone who might know her, to try to paint the picture and determine what are we dealing with here?

SESAY: She used a handgun, that's what we're being told.

Does that say something specific?

Because obviously that was a choice, as opposed to another type of weapon, say, a knife.

What does the choice of a handgun indicate or signify?

CAMPBELL: Well, it's a debate, right. Obviously when you start getting into weaponry and getting some type of device, like a firearm that you're then going to go use against someone, you're planning, you're getting someone who doesn't just wake up and say I'm going to go do this. They have to actually go through the methods of --

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CAMPBELL: -- buying a device, buying some type of firearm.

Unfortunately, as you know, here in the United States, firearms are so prevalent throughout, I mean, the numbers are astonishing. So it's not that surprising in the sense that she would have access to a weapon.

It's just, to me, as a former investigator, that tells me that, you know, was she someone who had owned firearms for a long time or did she something trigger her to then go and, you know, buy a weapon and then try to plan this attack?

A lot of the answers to these questions we won't know until investigators interview the witnesses that were there.

One major question I've had and we still don't have answered is, you know, when she arrived at the facility, did she interact with the people before she shot them?

Or was she so laser focused on just going in and taking life?

The second question, which is, to me, tells me, you know, is this someone who thought she was going to make it out alive?

Or did she go in there with no intention of ever leaving?

And that is, did she take her own life after the shots were fired?

Or did she take her own life after she was confronted by law enforcement?

A lot of questions we don't have and those will be answered in the coming days. SESAY: You talked out the prevalence of firearms, the ease of access, I want you to listen to what the surgeon at the hospital who -- the hospital that received a number of the injured, what he had to say. Take a listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DR. ANDRE CAMPBELL, ATTENDING SURGEON: Once again, we are confronted with the specter of mass casualty situation here in the city and county of San Francisco, where we now have three victims, who have come in, that we've taken care of.

This is unfortunate and it continues. You think that after we've seen Las Vegas, Parkland, the Pulse nightclub shooting, that we would see an end to this. But we have not.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SESAY: Dr. Andre Campbell speaking there, he's clearly exasperated.

Who can blame him?

We keep seeing this again and again.

Do you have concerns when we see something like this happen, you know, on this Tuesday, that there will be copy cat incidents?

CAMPBELL: Yes. It's always a factor that law enforcement will look into to try to determine is this someone that is now going to inspire other people to act on whatever grievances that they might have. It's a very tough business.

As we sat there watching the doctor, seeing on his face, you can see the grief, the anxiety. Again, unfortunately, I have no good news to provide. But as you look at these incidents, being a former FBI agent, we're now in a place in the United States where now doctors are becoming an integral part in the tactical response to firearm incidents.

So if you take for example the San Bernardino attack that happened not too far from where we're sitting here, they had doctors who were embedded with police units and SWAT teams that could then respond.

Unfortunately, with all the experience in mass shootings, law enforcement and the medical personnel realize that if you could surge medical personnel to the scene, triage and treat them there, then you could possibly save lives.

So we see that happening. We see these hospitals now part of these drills so that when an incident like this takes place, word goes out to the hospitals and they prepare. It just shows the number of people impacted by this, it goes just beyond those who are at the facility or those who are in law enforcement. There are many sectors now, unfortunately, involved in these.

SESAY: It's a sad state of affairs. Josh Campbell, so good to have you with us.

CAMPBELL: Thank you.

SESAY: (INAUDIBLE) the CNN family.

CAMPBELL: Yes, thank you.

SESAY: All right. Quick break here.

Now the Syrian regime could soon secure another victory as government forces appear to be evacuating a key rebel enclave. A CNN report from Eastern Ghouta next.

Plus, walk with two civil rights icons on Martin Luther King Jr.'s final steps, 50 years after he was assassinated. What they're telling CNN about that fateful day. Stay with us.

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SESAY: Hello, everyone.

The balance of power in the Syrian civil war appears to be changing. The presidents of Russia, Iran and Turkey, the prominent proxy players in this battle, are set to meet in a few hours to discuss a political solution.

After seven years, the underlying causes of the war remain largely unresolved. But Russia has given the Syrian government a military advantage. Eastern Ghouta is the latest regime conquest -- look at this map with me. It shows rebels control the enclave just a little over a month ago.

What President Assad's forces have since retaken most of the Damascus suburb in a military offensive widely condemned internationally. Only the enclave of Douma remains under rebel control.

But now we're getting reports that some members of the most powerful rebel group in Douma have started to evacuate. CNN's reporter from inside the war-torn country right now and our own Frederik Pleitgen has more from Eastern Ghouta.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: We're at the final entry checkpoint to Douma, which is the last rebel enclave on the eastern outskirts of Damascus. What we've been seeing here is several buses with what we believe to be rebel fighters exiting this area.

Now most of those fighters in the past couple of days have been bused to other locations, mostly in the north of Syria. The groups we saw, we're not sure which rebel group they were from and also we're not sure where they were being taken.

But in the past couple of weeks the rebels have lost a considerable amount of territory here on the eastern outskirts of Damascus. They used to hold a gigantic area. But after extremely heavy fighting, tens of thousands of civilians fled the area and also thousands of fighters were bused out as well.

Now with the rebels only holding one small enclave, many believe a deal will be reached soon for those rebels to go out as well. So far it is unclear when it will happen. But there do seem to be people in Damascus who think it will be very soon.

In fact we spoke to people who came here to the checkpoint, who said they had relatives kidnapped by the rebels, some of them for years, whom they hope will come out soon.

Here's what one woman said.

"I depend on God," she says, "this is my only hope. I will wait here as long as it takes for my father to come out."

Now the deal to try and get the last rebel group here in this part of Damascus, called the Jaish al-Islam to give up is being negotiated mostly by the Russians. And it certainly seems as though the government of Syria believes that deal will happen soon.

In fact, there are already dozens of buses waiting here outside the Douma district ready to take the fighters to the north of Syria, which essentially would meaning the rebels would no longer hold any sort of significant territory in or outside the Syrian capital -- Fred Pleitgen, CNN, Eastern Ghouta, Syria.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SESAY: Quick break here. The U.N. makes a dire announcement about millions of people in Yemen, as the country's war rages into its fourth year. Details next.

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SESAY: You're watching CNN NEWSROOM, live in Los Angeles, lm Isha Sesay, the headlines this hour.

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SESAY: Well, the war in Yemen, entering its fourth year, is now the world's worst humanitarian crisis, that's according to the United Nations. The U.N. secretary-general says more than 22 million people in Yemen desperately need aid and protection.

He told them during a conference in Geneva that three-quarters of Yemen's population have no access to clean drinking water and the country is at high risk of a cholera epidemic.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ANTONIO GUTERRES, U.N. HIGH COMMISSIONER FOR REFUGEES: Every 10 minutes a child under 5 dies of preventable causes, and nearly 3 million children over 5 and pregnant or lactating women are actually malnourished.

Nearly half of all children aged between 6 months and 5 years old are chronically malnourished and suffer from stunting, which causes development delays and reduced ability to learn throughout their entire lives.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SESAY: Well, Geert Cappelaere joins us now. He's UNICEF's regional director for the Middle East and North Africa.

Geert, good to speak to you once again. I know you've responded to crises in many parts of the world throughout your career. Talk to me about the unique conditions at play in Yemen, which make it the worst humanitarian crisis in the world right now?

GEERT CAPPELAERE, UNICEF'S REGIONAL DIRECTOR FOR THE MIDDLE EAST AND NORTH AFRICA: Well, thanks, Isha, I'm just coming out of Yemen. And I have to admit, I don't think there are many worse places to be a child than today in Yemen.

Over the last three years, over 5,000 children have been killed or seriously injured by a brutal war in Yemen. The secretary-general has quoted a number of other statistics just showing how dire, how life threatening the entire situation is in Yemen. And we could add to that even the education challenges.

Today, Isha, over 2 million children are not any longer able to go to school. The problem for children in Yemen, the problem for people in Yemen is that this brutal war comes on top of decades of chronic underdevelopment. So it is really, really one of the worst places today for being a child.

SESAY: Yes. And as you've laid it out and the secretary-general has as well, the children who are dying and who are injured and are out of school, talk to me about some of the choices parents are being forced to make for their children in these kinds of environments. I know that we're seeing increasing cases of child marriage.

CAPPELAERE: Absolutely. We estimate today that more than 80 of Yemenis population lives in deep poverty, with little to no income. That means --

[00:35:00] CAPPELAERE: -- for every single parent, the few dollars they still have, have to be spent either to provide some food for the family, to provide some drinking water, which costs an awful lot of money.

Very many parents have to make the choice to take their children off school, wherever there is still school available, because they can't afford it anymore. We therefore also see very negative coping mechanisms, where, again, the children are the first and most important victims.

You see parents making the hard choice to have the children going out to beg or to work. I've never seen in Sanaa (ph) as many begging children as I have seen over the last week. The same for Aden (ph), the same for Hodeida (ph). Parents have to make the choice to marry their girls at a very young age. Today, half of the girls are married before age 15.

SESAY: Gosh. It is truly tragic. It is considered the world's forgotten war.

Geert, tell me what UNICEF is able to do. I know humanitarian access is limited but tell me how much of a difference you are making.

CAPPELAERE: Well, we have our teams work hard 24/7 throughout Yemen, in all parts of Yemen, trying to provide lifesaving assistance to children. We have, indeed, the cholera, another cholera outbreak, looming with the rainy season coming in, in a couple of weeks' time.

So we are working very hard with our partners to ensure that at least in those districts most affected, we get children vaccinated against cholera. We are trying to guarantee that children get access to drinking water which is not a given in a country that is water scarce, probably one of the most water scarce countries in the world.

We try to guarantee that those children suffering from malnutrition have at least a first response to that, to the most acute forms of malnutrition and there when it is possible we try to help children getting to school.

Last but not least, Isha, we also continue being a voice for these children, making sure that the international community knows how big the suffering of children is, how many children, innocent children are being killed.

Yesterday or day before yesterday, nine children killed innocently, adding to the thousands who have killed already, not generosity alone in Yemen is not going to be sufficient anymore. It's a brutal --

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SESAY: There's no doubt about it. The aid alone will not fix this. We need a political solution to save these children.

Geert Cappelaere, we always appreciate you and appreciate the honesty and the picture you paint of how bad it is. The world needs to know. Geert, thank you. CAPPELAERE: Thanks, Isha.

SESAY: Quick break here. Next on NEWSROOM L.A: they were there when Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated and they tell CNN they recall the horrific details like it was yesterday. Two civil rights leaders remember Reverend King next.

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SESAY: Memphis, Tennessee, is honoring the civil rights icon, the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. 50 years after he gave what would be his final speech. City leaders gathered Tuesday to remember Dr. King's "I've Been to the Mountaintop" address delivered on April 3rd, 1968, at the Mason Temple.

He was in Memphis to support a strike by city sanitation workers. One day later on April 4th, 1968, shots rang out in Memphis, ending Dr. King's life but not his dream. In a CNN exclusive, two of the men who were there on that fateful day spoke with our own Victor Blackwell to honor and remember Reverend King.

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VICTOR BLACKWELL, CNN ANCHOR: It doesn't feel like it's been 50 years.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Feels like it was yesterday.

BLACKWELL (voice-over): It was April 4th, 1968, in Memphis, Tennessee, before Andrew Young was an ambassador to the world, before Jesse Jackson became a reverend and a groundbreaking political figure.

They were two young men, dedicated to the cause of equality, led by Dr Martin Luther King Jr. and it was a chilly Thursday afternoon at the Lorraine Motel.

ANDREW YOUNG, CIVIL RIGHTS LEADER: I was talking to him, telling him he needed a coat. And he sort of raised his head to kind of see, test the weather. And, pow.

BLACKWELL (voice-over): A single shot to his chin and King was dead. He was 39 years old. Now a half-century later, Young and Jackson return to the very spot where their friend and leader was assassinated.

YOUNG: His shoes got caught under here and it knocked him out of his shoes.

BLACKWELL (voice-over): A photographer who was staying three rooms down snapped this iconic image as King lay dying. YOUNG: And we were pointing over there because the police were here. They were running over this way and we were trying to tell them to go back that way. That's where the shot came from.

BLACKWELL: Do you think he heard the shot?

YOUNG: I don't think he heard the shot or felt it. I think it was a beautiful death. My first reaction was to be mad and the second reaction was to say, well, if anybody's entitled to a reward, you have sure earned it. And, you know, take your flight to heaven.

BLACKWELL (voice-over): Young went on to serve as congressman, as U.S. ambassador to the United Nations and as mayor of Atlanta. Jackson continued social and political activism and ran for president twice.

JESSE JACKSON, CIVIL RIGHTS LEADER: Every move I made, whether it was a demonstration or running for the presidency, I always felt his spirit in some way, I touched base with him before doing it.

BLACKWELL (voice-over): Jackson, now 76, and Young, 86, say King did not fear death. And even as they stand on the balcony that was once stained with King's blood, they're convinced that he will never die.

YOUNG: I've been to 152 countries. I've never been anywhere where people have wanted to asked me about Martin Luther King.

JACKSON: If he were 89 years old, he would be just an old preacher who preached great sermons. His martyrdom is power. His spirit is alive.

BLACKWELL (voice-over): Victor Blackwell, CNN, Memphis.

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SESAY: The dream is alive. Thanks for watching CNN NEWSROOM live from Los Angeles. I'm Isha Sesay. "WORLD SPORT" starts after the break.

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