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China Plans Tariffs on U.S. Goods; Trump Orders National Guard to U.S.-Mexico Border; Trump Agrees to Hold Off on Total Military Pullout in Syria; U.S. to Sanction Several Russian Oligarchs; Trump More Than a Witness in Russia Probe; North and South Korea Meet ahead of Summit; Russia, Iran, Turkey Seek Lasting Ceasefire in Syria; Son of Holocaust Survivor Speaks; Mark Zuckerberg on an Apology Tour. Aired 1-2a ET
Aired April 5, 2018 - 01:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ISHA SESAY, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): You are watching CNN NEWSROOM live from Los Angeles. Ahead this hour:
More global uncertainty courtesy of the Trump White House. The U.S. president threatens to pull troops out of Syria while deploying others to the Mexican border. All as fears grow of a possible trade war with China.
The Facebook data scandal worsens. The social network admits that millions more users may have had their data exposed.
And providing hope in a place severely lacking in it. We will tell you about an online school trying to get students an education in the middle of a war zone.
Hello and thank you for joining us. I am Isha Sesay. This is NEWSROOM L.A.
SESAY: Donald Trump is putting his America first promises into action with new moves in Syria, along the U.S. border in Mexico and in trade with China. First, the president has agreed to hold off on his plans to immediately pull U.S. forces out of Syria. But sources tell CNN the president is irritated with top military brass who advise him against a sudden withdrawal. The White House says the drawdown will be more gradual.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SARAH HUCKABEE SANDERS, DEPUTY WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: The purpose would be to transition that and train local enforcement as well as have our allies and partners in the region, who have a lot more at risk, to put more skin into the game. And certainly that's something that the president wants to see happen,
is for them to step up and for them to do more.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SESAY: Meanwhile, the president says a drastic surge in illegal activity along the U.S. border with Mexico is a threat to national security. So he is authorizing the deployment of National Guard troops. The administration won't say how many troops, where they will go or for how long.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JEFF ZELENY, CNN SR. WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: I'm not sure I understand what the urgency for this is. It seems like it ramped up again over the last several days.
KIRSTJEN NIELSEN, U.S. HOMELAND SECURITY DIRECTOR: Why today, not yesterday, tomorrow?
Today is the day. Today is the day we want to start this process. The threat is real.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SESAY: And China is responding to U.S. plans for new tariffs on Chinese goods. Beijing says it will impose a 25 percent tariff on $50 billion of U.S. goods, including planes, cars, chemicals and soybeans.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Could we lose the trade war?
LARRY KUDLOW, DIRECTOR, U.S. NATIONAL ECONOMIC COUNCIL: No. How's that?
I'll accede here (ph). I don't see it that way. This is negotiation using all the tools.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SESAY: And the trade war that sent fears to Wall Street and that sent the Dow plunging more than 500 points in early trading but the blue chips rallied later in the day, finishing 230 points higher.
A lot to get through. I want to welcome our guests. Jessica Levinson is a professor of law and governance at Loyola Law School. CNN's Ivan Watson is standing by for us in Beijing. CNN military analyst Lieutenant Colonel Rick Francona joins us via Skype and Robert English is the deputy director of the USC School of International Relations.
Welcome to you all.
Ivan, to start with you in Beijing, Trump's new economic adviser is saying there is no trade war, trying to tamp down talk of an escalating situation, basically saying that this is just a negotiating tactic, if you will. That is how the U.S. sees it.
From where you are in Beijing, what are their thoughts, what's their strategy?
IVAN WATSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: I think they are also calling for negotiations. So you basically have leaders of the two world's largest economies. They have made threats. They've singled out thousands of products for potential tariffs on a combined total of about $100 billion worth of bilateral trade.
And both sides are now calling for some kind of negotiation. It's a holiday here in China so we're not likely to hear a lot of comment coming out of the government. The Chinese ambassador to Washington was seen coming out of the State Department and he told journalists that, quote, "Negotiations would still be our preference but it takes two to tango."
And that has been a line that the Chinese have said. They've singled out products that could be hit with the 25 percent tariff, products that could potentially do some real harm within the agricultural sector, for example, in the U.S.
But they have also indicated that they're not going to impose them right away, that that will depend on the U.S. moves going forward. And we heard an echo of that coming from the White House, where the White House spokesperson, Sarah Sanders, said it looks like it will still be --
WATSON: -- months before these tariffs go into effect and the White House saying they want to see changes on what they claim are China's unfair trade practices.
Clearly part of China's strategy, though, is threaten to cause harm to demographics in the U.S. that voted for Trump in 2016. Here is a quote from China's, the "China Daily" state newspaper from an editorial saying, quote, "Soon farmers, ranchers and other U.S. workers will be adding their voices to the chorus of blame directed Trump's way," an example here.
When they singled out soybeans, which was a $14 billion U.S. export market to China, eight out of the 10 soybean producing states in the U.S. voted for Trump in 2016.
According to U.S. trade figures, more than 900,000 U.S. jobs depend on exports to China. So China has made clear that it can hurt the U.S. And it can hurt the White House in Trump country if there isn't some negotiated solution.
But it does look like there are weeks, if not months, for that negotiation to take place, presumably behind closed doors -- Isha.
SESAY: Presumably. And with the aid of Twitter, of course. Ivan Watson, where you are from Beijing, we appreciate it, Ivan, thank you.
Jessica, to you, I want to read a tweet by the president that sums up his view of what is happening here with China.
It says, "We are not in a trade war with China. That war was lost many years ago by the foolish or incompetent people who represented the U.S. Now we have a trade deficit of $500 billion year with intellectual property theft of another $300 billion. We cannot let this continue."
Jessica, the president says that the U.S. is not in a trade war with China. But he also wants victory, right, and he says this is all a negotiating tactic.
This is all predicated on the idea that China is going to buckle?
What if China doesn't buckle?
JESSICA LEVINSON, LOYOLA LAW SCHOOL: Well, then we are in a trade war, to put it simply. And I would say also trade war is a term that we are using in a common vernacular way.
You can say we have been trying to negotiate in a very hard-knuckle sense with them for a while now. Now I think we need to take this out of the theoretical academic and say this will affect real people and real dollars very quickly.
So I know that President Trump wants a victory and I know that he has sold himself as a master negotiator. But I would say, one all appearances to the contrary and, two, this tweet is really vintage President Trump in the sense that he is saying other people did something bad; I have to fix that and he's trying not to show us that he is actually escalating quite a scary situation.
I think that China is being strategically brilliant in trying to target certain goods that will hurt Trump voters because that is where Trump will be hurt if he's hurt among his constituents.
SESAY: With that view, of it having political costs for the president, that doesn't seem like a group or an opposition that is looking to buckle anytime quickly but we shall see.
It has been a busy couple of days because with the president's tweets and his words, the White House is playing catch-up on a number of different fronts. The military has been front and center with the president in recent days. He wants troops out of Syria and he wants troops at of the border to guard against an influx of immigrants and crime, as he says.
Rick Francona, it has been a whirlwind to say the least. And it would appear that the president's comments have caught his military brass by surprise on a number of fronts. When we talk about the situation with the Mexican border, this kind of started up on the weekend, this urgency, this crime, the issues and the caravan of immigrants of illegals coming to the United States. The National Guard must go to the border. This is basically Trump's position. So that leaves everyone to say,
what is the plan? How is this going to work? His Homeland Security Secretary was at the White House and it's not clear what the plan is after hearing her. Take a listen.
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UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How soon do you think, whatever the numbers are, the deployment will begin?
KIRSTJEN NIELSEN, U.S. HOMELAND SECURITY DIRECTOR: So let me take the last part first. We do hope that the deployment begins immediately.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The size and duration of the --
NIELSEN: The size and duration, we have not -- I don't want to get ahead of the governors.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: More robust than the Bush deployment?
NIELSEN: I think -- it will be -- it will be strong. It will be as many as is needed to fill the gaps that we have today, is what I can tell you.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Can you give a cost estimate for what this --
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: -- will cost and -- ?
NIELSEN: No, I can't.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How much will it cost to complete the entirety of the wall that you desire?
NIELSEN: So we are -- the Border Patrol, as you know, has submitted a very specific plan to Congress.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So we don't have a total ticket price at this time?
It's still unclear what you think it will cost?
NIELSEN: We have the down payments. We're working with Congress --
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Does that mean that troops could be heading to the border as soon as tonight?
NIELSEN: It does mean that but what it also means is we will do it in conjunction with the governors. I am not going to get ahead of them.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Does the president have the authority to use money that Congress has appropriated to the Department of Defense to build the border wall? NIELSEN: So it's a good question. I am going to sidestep it because I am not at the Department of Defense and I'm not a lawyer over there.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SESAY: Rick Francona, it's a good question.
What plan? How much, how long?
Seriously, if you're going to put it out there like this, shouldn't they have this information?
LT. COL. RICK FRANCONA (RET.), CNN MILITARY ANALYST: Well, and who is in charge?
We have got the Department of Homeland Security, you've got several governors of different states that have National Guard authority. And then you've got the federal government, who has the responsibility for patrolling the border so you've got the border patrol involved.
Is this going to be a federal military operation, are they going to federalize these troops?
Who's going to pay for it?
Are the governors going to be in charge or is the president going to be in charge?
None of this has been figured out yet. And the Pentagon has been given a 30-day time period, which is not all that long when you are developing these complex plans to get this done and in order.
So I think this is another one of these quick responses to what I call a rising frustration level at the White House because the president can't get the border security issues done that he promised during the campaign. And he is just frustrated. He wants to do something. And this is something that he can do, there's precedent to use National Guard troops on the border.
SESAY: There certainly is precedent, that's for sure. Rick Francona, thank you. Stay with us.
Jessica, to bring you in, you heard Rick, the president is frustrated so he wanted to do something and he signed a memo that authorized the National Guard to the border. I want to read some of it.
He said this, "The situation at the border has now reached a point of crisis. The lawlessness that continues at our southern border is fundamentally incompatible with the safety, security and sovereignty of the American people. My administration has no choice but to act."
From those words, it seems as if America is under siege.
As you look at it, is this politics or is there a crisis here? I mean, what is going on?
Because there are fewer people coming across the border right now, the lowest it has been in many years.
LEVINSON: Well, there you go with some facts. Yes, there are fewer people coming across than there were.
So is there an issue of people illegally coming into the country?
Of course there is.
Has this suddenly reached crisis proportions?
And is it different in any way from what was happening a year ago, two years ago?
No, actually, the numbers indicate that this is getting better and not worse.
So is this a political play?
I mean, I think this is, if there is a crisis here, it is the "I don't have a magic wand" crisis. It's a president who is extraordinarily agitated because he can't just wave a magic wand and make it so.
And so we have seen him frame things I think actually quite brilliantly. He's saying you are in trouble. You are living in a country that is absolutely dangerous and I am going to be the one to protect you and we have to act right now.
And part of that urgency I think frankly is to get around some of the legal questions as to whether or not it is appropriate to send in the National Guard for this purpose. And some of the political questions. And I think that he really is at the point where he wants to be able to point to more than the tax overhaul as an accomplishment.
SESAY: Rick Francona, correct me if I'm wrong, but Mexico is an ally, right?
To have -- just so we're clear here, Mexico is an ally. So to go putting the military, the National Guard on the border, the Mexican ambassador to the United States has already said this is unwelcome. This is the kind of situation which, if Mexico responded and put their own troops on the border, this could get out of hand really quickly and very easily.
FRANCONA: Well, it has gotten out of hand in the past. We've seen gunfights between border patrol and Mexican military forces. So it's -- there are forces on that border on the Mexican side for sure. And the border patrol on the U.S. side and now may be backed by the National Guard.
So this is -- I'll call it a crisis waiting to happen because if there is not a crisis now, there soon may be when you get that many people on the border that close together. There has to be really, really tight control over what these troops
are supposed to do. If they do it like it was in the past they're going to be in a supportive role. that we could probably handle. But if it the rhetoric holds and he's down there and you've got --
FRANCONA: -- troops patrolling the border, then I think that is really, really a stretch.
SESAY: Jessica, to you, I want to talk about Syria and the president's insistence that U.S. troops come home and come home, as he's wanted it, immediately. Again, another statement that caught his military brass by surprise.
The president, again, this is all about the campaign promise. This is all about, one would assume, about the base. Again, it comes down to how much has he thought this all the way through and where is he getting his advice from?
Because the military chiefs have been clear, this is a bad move.
LEVINSON: Well, I think that if one thing has been consistent with respect to the president, is that he really firmly trusts himself and frankly, so many of us, myself included, were saying there is no way he is going to win this campaign. And he has a lot to back up, this feeling that he is right and he is the smartest person in the room.
And look, he became President of the United States against all odds. And so the issue is that this is -- he went from candidate Trump to President Trump and he is saying it is not so easy to do things like create a border wall or end all foreign wars. He actually sent more troops into Afghanistan and Syria. So there was a slight uptick in troops.
And I think now it is a matter of him saying -- which is kind of consistent with his world view, he wants to pull back. He wants to be a smaller part of the world community. It is a much more isolationist perspective.
And I think that it's also very consistent with his view in the sense that it is not consistent with his experts and it took them by surprise and I think they likely found out about it at the same time we did.
And if there is one thread we have seen throughout this presidency, is that there's very little ability to predict and it's certainly not based on what his advisers are telling him.
SESAY: Rick Francona, this interest of the president or this fixation really to get troops out of Syria, he was irritated with military brass that said this is a bad idea. He says it has done nothing for the U.S. He says let the locals take over this.
You are a military man, what is your view? FRANCONA: Well, I think he is mistaken here. First of all, we are using the locals. This is the Afghan model. This works. It worked in Afghanistan. It worked in Iraq against ISIS. It's working in Syria against ISIS until the Turks decided to have their little adventurism up in the north.
But we're using American airpower and American firepower and American Special Forces backing up a large indigenous force on the ground. It has been very effective. The Kurds have proven themselves to be the best fighters on the ground, against ISIS, bar none. It is working. We're on the verge of utterly defeating ISIS in Syria just we've almost done it in Iraq.
This is a good thing. Don't screw this up, Mr. President. Follow the advice of your generals, they know what they are doing. If we leave now, we are going to do exactly what we did in 2011 when we left Iraq prior to the security situation being stable and we not only contributed to the growth and the expansion of ISIS, it led to the almost destruction of Iraq and good parts of Syria.
SESAY: I am not sure he is going to hear you from where you are in Oregon. But we thank you for the analysis. Thank you.
Jessica, back to you. I want to talk a little more legal in this whole Mueller probe. We are learning that Mueller has Russian oligarchs in his sights. This is according to some CNN reporting. Let's put that up on the screen and share it with our viewers.
space Robert Mueller's team has taken the unusual step of questioning Russian oligarchs who traveled into the U.S., stopping at least one and searching his electronic devices when his private jet landed at a New York area airport according to multiple sources familiar with the inquiry.
Jessica, what does this say to you?
LEVINSON: Well, it says to me, something that I think a lot of people are looking for and it is absolutely fascinating. One of the key things here is going to be the money trail and it's going to be a money trail looking at whether or not election laws were violated.
So the question with respect to the oligarchs is whether they were illegally funneling money into our American presidential campaign because that is something our election laws are very complex but one thing is clear, foreign nationals cannot contribute to try to help defeat or elect our candidates.
And so it seems to me that there is a fairly intricate web of possibilities with respect to how Russian money could have made its way into our election. It shows that Robert Mueller is focusing on, frankly, I think a place where there could be some very specific and concrete issues and --
SESAY: I didn't mean to cut you off; I just wanted to get Robert English to weigh in to that very point.
Robert, do you agree with Jessica's read of this situation?
ROBERT ENGLISH, USC: Yes, I absolutely do agree. We just -- neither of us can know from the outside where there -- whether these are the final --
ENGLISH: -- pieces, whether he has a lot of evidence of this Russian money connection and he's just looking for the final pieces to make a stronger case or if these are simply promising leads. And there is a long way to go. And we can only find out and we can only wait until more evidence comes to light.
I don't know which it is. I have no inkling. Things are moving slowly; Mueller doesn't act precipitously. He certainly doesn't go out on a limb. So it would well be a very serious sign. And we have kind of dodgy meetings that, for who the purposes have never been clear, from Trump Tower to the Seychelles, from Paris to the Persian Gulf.
So there's a lot of smoke there and maybe he's getting close to the fire.
SESAY: Same with you, Robert, we're also learning from U.S. officials that this administration plans to level sanctions on several Russian oligarchs with ties to Putin this week.
From where you sit, and you've looked at this, the big picture, why might this administration be doing this now?
ENGLISH: Well, it can be seen in one more in a series of steps where Trump is finally acting, responding to congressional pressure and the whole political establishment.
His own national security adviser and his Russia experts, his own U.N. ambassador have all been pushing him to take a tougher stance. To be cynical about it, it's a pretty low-cost move. The reporting we've seen says maybe a half-dozen, maybe as many as a dozen new individuals targeted.
That is not going to change anything in Russia's policy. It is a pinprick. In financial terms, we have a small number of individuals and any economic damage they may suffer, President Putin in Russia has made clear he will supplement and then something.
So a half-dozen, it's a tiny number. And so far, we haven't even seen the individuals subject to these sanctions well chosen. The U.S. Treasury a couple of months ago put out a list of the 100 top oligarchs. And it was the sloppiest piece of work. It was basically cut and pasted from a "Forbes" magazine article about the wealthiest Russians, many of whom don't even live in Russia anymore and whose business is abroad.
Others who have been in conflict with the Putin government and have lost assets as a result of that.
And you want to target these people?
So I really hope that the administration is choosing its targets carefully because what we have seen so far is not careful at all.
SESAY: All will be revealed very shortly, we believe.
Robert English, we thank you.
Jessica Levinson, thank you for the great conversation.
Also want to thank Rick Francona.
And of course, Ivan Watson, great conversations, many, many thanks.
Breaking news for you from Brazil where the supreme court has just ruled against former president Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva's attempt to delay his 12-year prison sentence. Lula da Silva was found guilty last year of corruption and money laundering but denied any wrongdoing. The supreme court's decision now goes back to a lower court, where it's expected a warrant for his arrest will be issued within the coming days.
Now the court's decision could likely diminish any plans he may have had to run again in Brazil's next presidential election.
Still to come here on CNN NEWSROOM, new details about the nerve agent attack in England, a report that security services have pinpointed the source of the toxic agent.
And the boss of Facebook may be in for a rough patch when he testifies next week before the U.S. Congress. It now appears the scandal overtaking his company is even worse than first feared. We will explain.
SESAY: Russia wants the U.N. Security Council to meet and discuss the nerve agent attack on a former Russian double agent and his daughter in England. This as "The Times of London" reports British officials have identified the Russian lab that made the substance. It reports security sources cannot claim 100 percent certainty but have high confidence in the location. Russia denies any involvement in the attack and wants to address it.
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VLADIMIR PUTIN, PRESIDENT OF RUSSIA (through translator): We're not expecting anything but common sense to prevail. International relations will not tolerate the recent damage done. This concerns not only the Skripal case, by the way, but a whole range of other issues, too.
We need to restore healthy political process based on a framework of fundamental international norms and principles and only then will we achieve stability and predictability.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SESAY: Russia's request to join the investigation by the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons was voted down by its members.
The West African region of Sierra Leone has a new president. Julius Maada Bio was sworn in on Wednesday just a few hours after winning a tight runoff against the former foreign minister. Sierra Leone faces a huge challenge to rebuild its economy after the Ebola epidemic. Maada Bio briefly ruled the country in 1996 as the leader of a military junta.
But this time around, the nation's elections, I am thankful to say, were mostly peaceful.
Officials from North and South Korea have been meeting for a second time to hammer out details of the upcoming summit between the two countries. The summit it set to take place a little over three weeks from now. Some of the sensitive issues now being ironed out relate to protocol, media coverage and security. CNN's Alexandra Field is covering all of this for us from Seoul, South Korea.
Alexandra, what's emerging so far?
ALEXANDRA FIELD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The Blue House will potentially give an update once this meeting wraps up if anything's been agreed to. But they're willing to release at this time but this is just one in a series of meetings because nothing can be left up to chance when you talk about the preparations that are being made for an historic meeting between the South Korean president Moon Jae-in and the North Korean leader, Kim Jong-un.
And as you again mentioned, it is just about three weeks until that meeting happens. So it will take some back and forth between officials on both sides. We have seen them again go to the DMZ to meet face to face to have these sensitive conversations.
The focus today, a lot to do with protocol, security, media access. There will be another similar meeting happening this weekend, that will address the issue of communication. Of course when this was agreed to that this summit would happen, it was also agreed to that a phone line would need to be installed.
That would make it possible potentially for Kim Jong-un and Moon Jae- in to speak to each other directly before this summit is to happen on April 27th. So at this point, both sides really just need to agree to every piece, every detail of this.
This is a summit that will be held in the truce village in the DMZ, that's the most heavily fortified border in the world. The truce village straddles that border. There are three houses in the truce village, two of them belonging to the South Korean side, which is where that summit at the end of the month will take place.
Of course that means that Kim Jong-un will be entering into the peace house. So there are logistics and security issues around that that will be of heavy interest to both sides to make sure it all goes smoothly.
Also the questions of what kind of media access there will be, what the world will see of this historic moment. While they are talking about the fine print, we do know that this is all about setting up a successful summit which will be take up the much bigger issues, denuclearization and the improvement of inter-Korean relations -- Isha.
SESAY: There is a lot to nail down before they meet. Alexandra Field there in Seoul, we always appreciate it, Alex, thank you.
Still to come, we are inside Syria, meeting with civilians displaced from their homes and desperate for the seven-year war to end.
[01:31:54] ISHA SESAY, CNN ANCHOR: You're watching CNN NEWSROOM live from Los Angeles. I am Isha Sesay.
The headlines this hour.
China says it plans to impose new tariffs on $50 billion in U.S. goods including planes, cars and soy bean. That follows a similar announcement from the U.S. earlier this week. The White House is urging caution saying threats of new tariffs are a negotiating tactic.
Mexico's warning the U.S. against militarizing the border between the two countries. Donald Trump has authorized the deployment of U.S. National Guard troops to assist at the border. Mexico says it is being told the troops will not carry weapons.
And the White House is tempering expectations of a U.S. troop withdrawal from Syria. President Trump has said he wants U.S. forces home as soon as possible. Sources say he's irritated with military leaders who advise him against an immediate pullout.
Meantime three major players in Syria -- Russia, Iran and Turkey ended a summit Wednesday with commitment to achieve a lasting ceasefire in the war-ravaged country. The U.S. and Syria itself were notably absent from the talk.
The meeting brought together two of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's strongest supporters -- Russian President Vladimir Putin and Iranian President Hassan Rouhani along with President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey.
During the joint news conference the leaders reiterated their desire to drive terrorists out of Syria and to end the war.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) RECAP TAYYIP ERDOGAN, TURKISH PRESIDENT (through translator): It is of utmost importance to ensure that all terrorists groups that are a threat, not just to Syria but first and foremost to Turkey, surrounding countries, and in fact to the entire region are marginalized.
HASSAN ROUHANI, PRESIDENT OF IRAN (through translator): No country has the right to decide the future of Syria. The future of Syria belongs to the Syrian people.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SESAY: Meantime our own Frederik Pleitgen is inside Syria where he visited one of the largest camps of civilians seeking refuge from the war As he found out, these Syrians are traumatized by what they've endured and face an uncertain future as the seven-year conflict rages on.
FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: After escaping the violence in the eastern outskirts of Damascus, for these kids getting a haircut is a new and welcome distraction from the traumatic world they just got out of.
Ten-year-old Mohammed Mezza (ph) describes the fighting he endured.
"When it was calm we could go out," he says. "But when there were air strikes, we had to go into the basements."
Rebels held the eastern Ghouta area just outside Damascus for almost seven years. But a recent government offensive forced tens of thousands of civilians to flee, many of them ending up at this camp run by the government and aid groups.
Workers here say there have been around 21,000 new arrivals from the besieged areas in the past weeks and they're struggling to keep up.
Malnutrition and even starvation were major issues in the encircled areas of eastern Ghouta. And now that thousands of people have fled just to this one center for displaced people, simply keeping them fed is a major logistical challenge.
[01:35:02] Medical care is another challenge. NGOs have brought doctors and even a mobile clinic to the camp. The camp's director tells me psychological care for the traumatized civilians is an even bigger problem.
"We are doing what we can but it isn't enough," he says. "A siege of seven years of planting thoughts in the minds of children who were six years old when it began. This is the generation that we have the biggest problems with."
Tired, worn down and with an uncertain future, the people who have made it here don't know when or if they will be able to go back to their neighborhoods or whether they will still have a home to go back to.
But some like this man say they used to fight with the rebels but laid down their arms and came to this government-controlled area.
"If you are a fighter with them, they won't let you go," he says. "If you think you can escape, this option doesn't exist."
After going through years of violence, losing almost everything they have, many here are happy to have just escaped with their lives.
Fred Pleitgen, CNN -- Harzales (ph), Syria.
SESAY: As we just saw from that report, the conditions faced by civilians inside Syria aren't only uncomfortable but also extremely uncertain. The vast majority of families live in limbo from camp to camp. And the dangerous situation often weakens the hopes of the displaced who dream of returning home.
But one man is trying to rebuild those shattered dreams by offering tuition free online schooling for students in Syria and other places where conventional higher education is hard to reach.
Shai Reshef is the founder and president of the University of the People and he joins us now from New York. Shai -- welcome.
SHAI RESHEF, FOUNDER, UNIVERSITY OF THE PEOPLE: Thank you. Thank you for inviting me.
SESAY: Well, this is a remarkable opportunity that you have launched, one that caters to millions. It has the opportunity of helping millions. How did you come up with the idea?
RESHEF: Well, I was in for-profit education for many years. I started the first online university in Europe where I saw how powerful online learning can be because we have students from all over the world which could stay at home, keep their job and still get this great education.
However, at the same time we also realized that for most students it was nothing but wishful thinking. So I saw this university and I came here feeling that I want to continue but at the same time I felt that I have enough and it's my turn to give back.
So I looked around and I realized that everything that made higher education so expensive is available for free. Open source technology, open educational resources and a lot of volunteers, professors were willing to help students for free.
So I told myself all I have to do is to put it together and create tuition free university. So I did. And this is University of the People.
SESAY: So talk to me about that statement. It's tuition-free but it's not entirely free as I understand it. So what are the costs to the students?
RESHEF: So the idea is to make higher education -- quality higher education affordable and accessible to all. So the students take the courses for free. However, the assessment cost them $100 for each course. So a full degree over four years will cost the students $4,000 if they have the money.
If they do not have the money, we offer them scholarships because it is our mission that nobody would be left behind for financial reasons.
SESAY: That is phenomenal. Your student population -- as we talk about, you know, those that can't afford $4,000 because that is still a lot of money to, you know, a lot of people in many different parts of the world.
I mean typically, where do your students come from?, give me some insight into how many of them you're actually having to help out to take part in your university.
RESHEF: So we have -- so University of the People has right now 12,000 students. We are young. We are doubling the number every year. But half of them are coming actually from the U.S. but U.S. are not necessarily typical U.S. students. They are undocumented. They are students who drop out of college because of the loans and come to us to finish their degrees. It is homeless people and people with -- many of them are obviously first generation students.
Students who feel that in order to succeed in life they have to continue. They have to pursue higher education. So this is the U.S. and that is about half of our students.
But the rest of them are coming from 200 different countries and territories basically from every corner of the globe. We have survivors of the genocide in Rwanda, earthquake in Haiti and a lot, lot of refugees who come to us because we are the opportunity for those who have no other opportunity.
[01:40:06] SESAY: I want to show our viewers this picture. This is a picture of a student enrolled in one of your programs -- Maryam Hamed (ph). She is actually in Aleppo, Syria studying to get a bachelor's degree in business administration.
Shai -- tell me about the education experience your students have as being part of the University of the People. I mean for those living in conflict zones like Maryam, how do you ensure it is meaningful and worthwhile?
RESHEF: Well, you know, when you're under these circumstances, usually the only thing you do is try to survive. But giving them the opportunity to think about their future, to think about the day after the war is over is actually giving them hope for a better future.
So we are very proud. We took 600 Syrian refugees, more than any university on earth. There are 200,000 of them so 600 is great, but really not enough. We hope to have the resources and to have the money to accommodate many more because they are -- all of them are on a full scholarship.
But yes, I think that giving them hope is the right thing to do. And when the war will be over, they will build their own future and have their family, their communities and hopefully help rebuilding their country.
SESAY: That's a wonderful resource -- University of the People, provides hope and we all need hope. Shai Reshef -- we thank you. Thank you for joining us to tell us a little bit more about it. Really appreciate it.
RESHEF: Thank you so much.
SESAY: quick break here.
In his grief, the son of a murdered holocaust survivor speaks up about anti-Semitism in Europe. That's coming up on CNN NEWSROOM L.A.
SESAY: Well, people in France are trying to make sense of the murder of an elderly Jewish woman. But the son of the Holocaust survivor wants the world to know she believed in people.
He spoke with CNN's Melissa Bell.
MELISSA BELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Mireille Knoll survived the Holocaust but was killed on March 23rd at the age of 85 in a brutal anti-Semitic attack that shocked the world. Less than two weeks on, her son wants to speak for her.
DANIEL KNOLL, SON OF MIREILLE KNOLL: I think she wants that the people go together; that our friends, our neighbors even with that, they go all together.
BELL: And get together they did. In the thousands they marched through the streets of Paris on March 28th to condemn anti-Semitism and to remember Mireille Knoll.
KNOLL: I am surprised that all the world is in shock but it's normal and what happened to my mother is so awful, it's so criminal. She's a nice woman that loved everybody.
[01:44:59] The guy knows her since he is seven and he killed. Where are we? I have no explanation.
BELL: Mireille had lived in this apartment block for more than 20 years. On March 23rd, she was stabbed 11 times and then burned as the culprits tried to set fire to her apartment.
Daniel had tried to warn his mother about one of the man accused of killing her -- a 28-year-old known to police. According to the Knoll family's lawyer, citing sources close to the investigation, he should "Allahu Akbar" as he carried out the attack. KNOLL: (INAUDIBLE) That's crazy. She likes him -- until the end she likes him and she drinks a bottle with him.
BELL: Mireille Knoll's life didn't simply end with anti-Semitism, it began with it. During the Nazi occupation of France, she escaped Paris and the concentration camps only thanks to her mother's Brazilian passport. But her son says it is a different sort of anti- Semitism that killed her.
KNOLL: It is not only France, it is all Europe. We have a problem. It is a pity to say that. But it is the truth. And we have to fight against this minority of Muslim people and I hope that our friends, Muslim friends will fight against this monster. We have to. If not we are finished.
BELL: How will you remember your mother?
KNOLL: She believes in people. She was so friendly with everybody. All her life she was like that. My mother was wonderful.
BELL: Melissa Bell, CNN -- Paris.
SESAY: She believed in people.
Well, people across America and the world are remembering Martin Luther King Jr. and marking the 50th anniversary of his assassination. One of the biggest commemorations took place in Memphis, Tennessee where thousands gathered around the historic Lorraine Motel for a rally, an interfaith service and a musical tribute.
Martin Luther King Jr. he was shot dead while standing on the balcony of the Lorraine Motel on April 4th, 1968. To mark that moment the bell from the historic Clayborn Temple rang 39 times, one for each year of Martin Luther King's life.
SESAY: More problems for Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg. Australia has opened an investigation of Facebook after it was told 300,000 Australians may have had their privacy breached. Zuckerberg is scheduled to testify before the U.S. Congress next week. It comes after Facebook reported as many as 87 million users might have had their data shared.
Zuckerberg spent an hour talking about it with reporters. For what he had to say, here's CNN's Laurie Segall.
LAURIE SEGALL, CNN SENIOR TECH CORRESPONDENT: Hey there.
Well, Mark Zuckerberg taking questions from multiple reporters today. He started out a call, a 45-minute call and he started it out by simply saying you know, it was clear that they weren't doing enough.
Take a listen. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MARK ZUCKERBERG, CEO, FACEBOOK: We are an idealistic and optimistic company. For the first decade, we really focused on all the good that connecting people brings.
[01:50:01] But it's clear now that we didn't do enough, we didn't focus enough on preventing abuse and thinking through how people could use these tools to do harm as well.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SEGALL: Ahead of this call, Facebook's CTO put out a blog post that essentially said as many as 87 million people could be impacted by the Cambridge Analytica scandal that left people wondering what happened to their data. That number is up from 50 million. And Mark Zuckerberg on this call described that they looked at the max impact.
This is a part of a transparency tour that Facebook is going on. Answering these questions where a lot of folks are wondering how much access did this company have to our data? What happened? And during this call you had a lot reporters asking Mark Zuckerberg, is he the one to run the company. And he responded yes, I am. Life is about learning from mistakes.
He is preparing to go next week. It was announced he will be testifying in front of Congress. He'll be answering a lot of hard questions about data retention. What did the company do? What did the company not do?
This call today is part of him going around and talking to different members of the press about transparency and control and what the company is doing with your data.
Over the last couple of -- over the last couple of days, the company has actually put stricter data policies, making it harder for third party -- third-party ad developers to access your data. So I think this is just the beginning of it.
Next week will be a big week for Mark Zuckerberg. You know, you have lawmakers who are upset. You have the general public wondering what has happened and why was our data being used for political purposes. It's not what we signed up.
And you have, you know, Facebook's CEO going on this apology tour and saying we will do a better job. We'll be more transparent. This was a part of it today. He extended the call by ten minutes saying, you know, let's keep going. I want to answer more questions.
I think a lot of folks have a lot of questions for this company at this point in time.
Back to you.
SESAY: Our thanks to Laurie Segall for that. And to talk about Mark Zuckerberg and his tour, we've got Scott Perry.
Scott -- good to see you.
SCOTT PERRY, L.A. TECH DIGEST: Good to see you.
SESAY: So Zuckerberg on an apology tour, transparency tour. I definitely would want to be on that tour.
Talk to me about where he finds himself because now they've come out and said it's 87 million people who were targeted. And before we go further, let me tell you what Cambridge Analytica has said. They have responded. Let's put up this pilot (ph).
"Cambridge Analytica licensed data for no more than 30 million as is clearly stated in our contract with the research company. We did not receive more data than this."
I mean I think the bottom line here Scott, is has Facebook really got their arms fully wrapped around this thing?
PERRY: Absolutely not. I mean they left the back door open in the hen house. The fox came in. We don't know how bad the damage is.
And everything that's going on right now is to rectify the current situation but we really don't have the imagination to know what could be done with our information when it is put in the hands of the wrong people.
It is not just the 50 million from Cambridge Analytica. It's not just the 87 million. It's not just the 30 million that Cambridge Analytica says. It is actually the two billion users worldwide who Zuckerberg admits your information may have already been scraped because one of the backdoors they shut today was people were able to access your information based on just your e-mail address or your phone number.
PERRY: And what happens with that, who knows?
But in addition to that, you know, why did they need, and the things I want Congress and parliament to ask Facebook is not just what happened with the 70 points of data that as a user you provide Facebook voluntarily but what goes on with the data that other people extrapolate whether it's directly from an app or a quiz or from a third-party like Cambridge Analytica that was able to say oh, we only contracted 30 million out of 250,000 -- 270,000 that were used.
That's like -- how do you even do that? And then what is that information being used for? Like I mean last week when you said that they've ended their -- that Facebook had ended their contracts with five or six third-party data providers.
Why does Facebook need data from Experian to take your off site purchases to match up against your data to sell more ads? It's like, shouldn't the information we provide on Facebook be enough?
SESAY: Be enough, yes.
And to that point, as you scare everyone -- thank you for that. All around the world, some people are waking up in Europe and now they are panicking. How do you know if your information has been scraped?
PERRY: You just assume that it has, you know. And you limit the stuff you put up there. I mean, you know, to an extent, yes, you can extrapolate that this person is friends with me therefore there, you know, there is some information that is like safe to be putting out there.
But if you are putting out pictures of your kids every day -- is that really necessary? If you're putting put up the data that you've been like using your Fitbit every day to take your 2,000 steps -- is that really necessary?
I mean there's stuff out there that -- a lot of it is harmless data. You really don't know what can be done with it against you. But it's still out there. And the fact that they've even like canceled their portal, smart speaker says a lot because supposedly they are working on a smart speaker to go up against Amazon and Google and whatnot.
[01:55:01] PERRY: And could you imagine if Facebook's listening to everything you say inside your house and then using that data against you to sell more advertising or even worst to manipulate your thoughts to make you vote for a person or do a certain thing that is just based purely on just being manipulated?
SESAY: Some people were frightened before. Now, they're running into the streets outside -- I'm grateful for that.
People are now asking -- people are now asking is Zuckerberg the guy to lead Facebook. They asked him that on the call and he said yes I am.
PERRY: He is. He is. I mean our first clue should have been his New Year's resolution. Because his New Year's resolution this year wasn't to speak Chinese, walk a mile a day, or run a mile a day, or visit every state in America. His resolution for this year was to fix Facebook and nobody said why --
PERRY: Yes, yes, yes. I mean so if anybody is going to fix this, it's going to be the guy who built it. So yes, he and Sheryl right now -- Sheryl Sandberg are on the apology tour and they've taken a lot of efforts to close those things like right now, they're closing off the information that other apps can use. So a lot of people freaked out today because some apps you can only log in through Facebook, say the dating site Tinder.
So all of a sudden you don't access to your dating app because you have to log in to Facebook and Facebook shut off that access for a minute. And they're freaking out over that. SESAY: Appreciate being able to extrapolate more information on
Tinder by (INAUDIBLE) --
PERRY: Yes, beyond that but also, you know, Facebook says that they were scanning your private text and messages within Messenger. And that's bad enough. But they're also keeping call logs on your calls and your texts in your Android device. Why do they need that?
I mean it's not just what is happening now with Cambridge Analytica and the data you voluntarily provided but the big question is what other data do you have and why do you have it and to what extent are you using this stuff and how do you prevent it from being used.
SESAY: So with all these different access points to get data -- I mean which is what you've laid out, I mean basically everything as you put it, that you do with Facebook could be subject to someone scraping your information or getting access to your information.
This is obviously all about, I would assume, Facebook making money, right.
PERRY: Of course.
SESAY: So when they close all of these portals -- these access points, Facebook and their bottom line, what happens?
PERRY: The bottom line will take a hit. You know, Zuckerberg has to have --
SESAY: How big a hit?
PERRY: It is hard to say. It really is but the thing is -- the funny thing is, if they close off all these outside data access, they can just raise the prices on their advertising even more --
PERRY: -- because they're targeting system, even with just the internal data points is good enough for advertisers. And it works really, really well.
I will give them credit for that every day because like I said before, as an advertiser, if you are trying to reach the right person based on their interest, Facebook is a great way to do it.
SESAY: Wow. Well, Scott Perry -- I will ask everyone to write to you so that you can calm them down. Zuckerberg sounds like he's (INAUDIBLE) of the store.
PERRY: Well, you know, one of the good things coming up is the fact that they are going to follow GDPR policies, general data protection regulation policies, in the U.K. starting May 25th --
SESAY: Ok. PERRY: -- which should potentially role out to other territories as
SESAY: We shall see. We'll be watching.
Scott Perry -- we thank you.
And we thank you for watching NEWSROOM L.A. I'm Isha Sesay. I'll be back with much more news after this.
[01:58:16] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)