Return to Transcripts main page


Trump Slams Syrian Government over Alleged Chemical Attack; Anti-Immigrant Hungarian PM Orban Claims Victory; Frozen River Blown Up to Prevent Ice Jams; Philippines Closes Cesspool Tourist Island; Missiles Strike Airbase in Homs; Gas Attack Survivor Urges Intervention in Syria; National Guard Personnel to Support U.S. Border Agents; Vigil for Canadian Hockey Team Victims; Israeli Tank Fires across Gaza Border. Aired 1-2a ET

Aired April 9, 2018 - 01:59   ET




CYRIL VANIER, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): Syria denies using chemical weapons in Douma as the outrage grows worldwide.

NATALIE ALLEN, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): U.S. President Trump is lashing out at, quote, "Animal Assad," saying, "there will be a big price to pay."

VANIER (voice-over): Plus a young journalist dies covering the violence in Gaza. We'll tell you more about that.

ALLEN (voice-over): Thank you for joining us. We're here in Atlanta, coming to you live. I'm Natalie Allen.

VANIER (voice-over): And I'm Cyril Vanier. You're watching CNN NEWSROOM.


VANIER: We're going to start with the fallout today over a suspected chemical attack in Syria. Many world leaders are responding with outrage. The U.N. Security Council is set to meet in the coming hours after Saturday's alleged attack, which happened in Douma -- you see the map there.

Dozens of civilians were reported killed. Some of the images that we're about to show you, unfortunately, are very graphic, very disturbing. The Syrian government and its allies denied they used chemical weapons. U.S. President Donald Trump doesn't appear to be buying it. He lashed out on Twitter, calling Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, "an animal." He also warned that there will be a big price to pay.

ALLEN: Mr. Trump may have been reacting to images like this that you're about to see -- again, a warning, they're graphic. Video appearing to show some of the victims lying dead on the ground, children, parents. There is foam on their mouths, which is potential evidence of a chemical attack.

They're disturbing.

CNN's Ben Wedeman is in Beirut in neighboring Lebanon for us.

First, Ben, let's address a report from Syria that one of its airbases was shelled. The Pentagon is denying it had anything to do with that, if indeed it happened.

What are you hearing?

BEN WEDEMAN, CNN SR. INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: What we are seeing is that the Syrian Arab news agency, the official news agency of Syria, is reporting that there was a missile strike on the T4 airbase, which is 100 km northeast of Damascus.

They say that there have been fatalities and casualties as a result of the airstrike and that their air defenses were able to shoot down eight missiles. But we have no confirmation from any source of where those missiles came from. The Pentagon is denying it, the Israelis were also one of the top suspects, are saying that they're declining to comment at this time.

It is significant that on February 10th, Israel struck the T4 airbase. That is where an Iranian drone was launched that entered Israeli airspace on the 10th February and, of course, the after the Israeli airstrike took place on the T4 base, an Israeli F-16 was shot down by Syrian missile defenses.

So we know there are Iranian forces at that airbase. But beyond that, we are still searching for more details on this reported incident -- Natalie.

ALLEN: Well, the world is saying that it is going to respond at some point, that there is a meeting of the U.N. Security Council in a few hours. We will wait and see what that response is.

But let's talk about the situation now in Douma. They had been fighting until this reported chemical attack.

What are you hearing about Douma today?

WEDEMAN: What we have heard is that there now is an agreement that was negotiated by the Russians with Jaysh al-Islam or the Army of Islam, which is the main Saudi backed faction, rebel faction that has been in control of Douma.

According to that agreement, somewhere around 8,000 fighters and 40,000 of their family members will be evacuated with -- on buses provided by the Syrian government to Northern Syria, to areas under the control of Turkey.

So it appears that, even though for about 10 days there were unsuccessful negotiations between the Russians and Jaysh al-Islam, an agreement has been reached, perhaps helped along by this alleged chemical attack -- Natalie. ALLEN: Exactly, Ben.

So where things stand as far as this final push by the Syrian regime to force out the rebels from this region?

WEDEMAN: Well, it appears that we are in the final stages of this effort to crush the pocket of resistance that was Eastern Ghouta on the very outskirts of Damascus. It has been under rebel controller -- or had been under rebel control for quite some time. Now this offensive --


WEDEMAN: -- against Eastern Ghouta by the Syrian forces, by the Syrian government forces, backed up by the Russians, began in mid- February. At a certain point the Syrian forces had managed to cut Eastern Ghouta into three separate pockets and Douma was the last pocket.

So it does appear that that battle is all but over. There are still small areas around the Syrian capital under the control of various forms of opponents. The Yarmouk Palestinian refugee camp outside of Damascus is still under the control of ISIS. That perhaps may be the next focus of Syrian forces as they try to regain control of all the areas around Damascus -- Natalie.

ALLEN: Ben Wedeman, reporting for us live from Beirut, we thank you so much.


ALLEN: Sadly, the most recent attack in Douma would not be the first time we have the use of chemical weapons inside Syria. In early 2013, then U.S. President Barack Obama said Syria had crossed a red line with its use of chemical weapons after the government and rebels traded accusations over a gas attack in the north of the country.

The deadliest chemical weapons attack came in August of that year in the rebel-held suburb of Ghouta. U.S. intelligence found that nearly 1,500 people had died, including more than 400 children. And the United Nations said evidence showed sarin gas was used against civilians. Damascus denied it.

Then in April of last year, more than 80 civilians were killed in a sarin gas attack in rebel-held Khan Sheikhoun. The United Nations and chemical weapons inspectors found that the Assad regime was responsible for carrying it out.

Since the start of the war in 2011, activists and watchdog groups inside Syria claim there have been hundreds of chemical weapons attacks. The Syrian government has denied these claims.

Let's talk more about it with our guest, Gregory Koblentz in Washington. He's an associate professor at the Shore School (ph) at George Mason University.

Thanks so much for talking with us.


ALLEN: We just gave the background there and now we have this new video of people suffering.

When you saw this video, did you have any doubt that this was another chemical attack?

KOBLENTZ: Not really. Having so many people with those types of symptoms is indicative of chemical poisoning and it is similar to many we've seen in the past following Syrian regime use of chemical weapons in country (INAUDIBLE), in Eastern Ghouta and Idlib province throughout the course of this civil war.

ALLEN: Gregory, the instances of chemical attack in this war and the constant denial by the Syrian regime, is there an organization that can prove who's behind chemical attacks?

KOBLENTZ: There was such an organization but unfortunately Russia vetoed its renewal last year. But there was a U.N. body that had the mission of determining who would use chemical weapons during the Syrian civil war and they found that the Syrian government had used such weapons on multiple occasions.

And this has been confirmed with laboratory analyses, eyewitness information and other forensic data.

But unfortunately Russia has made sure that body won't be operating anymore because it found too many conclusions that went against interest of the Syrian regime and Russia.

ALLEN: So how does the world go around that to devise something else, some entity that can carry out this work without impediment?

KOBLENTZ: That is going to be a major challenge because of Russia's veto power on the Security Council. They can block any new U.N.-based organization. (INAUDIBLE) we have right now is the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, which is the organization in charge of making sure that countries aren't building any more chemical weapons and they have been making visits to Syria to investigate different alleged natural chemical attacks.

But because they're only a technical body, they are allowed to determine that a chemical was used but their mission is not to determine who the perpetrator was because that's a political calculation.

And so right now we're really left unfortunately a gap in our international response of an organization that has the mandate and the capability to go and determine who actually conducted these attacks.

ALLEN: What does that signal with that gap, without an unimpeded organization to be able to determine who used these weapons, what is the danger as far as other countries thinking they can get away with it? KOBLENTZ: Unfortunately, we've seen erosion of the norm against chemical weapons for several years now have driven in large part by Syria's continued use and their ability to do it without any real consequences.

We saw last year the use of VX by North Korea to assassinate Kim Jong- nam and then just last month --


KOBLENTZ: -- the use of the Novichok nerve agent, an attempted assassination of a former Russian spy.

So clearly we are seeing the effects of Syria's ability to use these weapons and do so without major international penalties it is emboldening other countries to do likewise.

ALLEN: Just hearing you say the normalization, the norm of chemical weapons is chilling, that the country here in 2018 has come back to this.

Can you tell us more about why that is happening?

KOBLENTZ: This is being driven really by the Syrian regime's just brutal counterinsurgency and the efforts to remove the rebel opposition from Syrian territory. This is just part of one of the many tactics they've used to commit atrocities in the civil war.

And they'll get away with it in large part because Russia shielded them from any kind of coordinated international response because of Russia's veto power in the Security Council. But it has really been making a travesty of international law, the chemical weapons convention and the U.N. itself that Syria has been able to get away with so much for so long.

ALLEN: Gregory Koblentz, thank you so much for joining us.

KOBLENTZ: Thank you for having me.


ALLEN: Now President Trump spoke with the French president, Emmanuel Macron, about the suspected chemical attack in Syria. The White House says both leaders agreed, the Assad regime must be held accountable for its human rights abuses.

ALLEN: The reported attack may pull Mr. Trump back into Syria's civil war just days after he said he wanted to withdraw U.S. troops. CNN's Abby Phillip is at the White House.


ABBY PHILLIP, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: President Trump once again finds himself responding to an alleged chemical weapons attack perpetrated by the Assad regime in Syria. This time, the president is lashing out at Vladimir Putin and Russia and Iran for enabling the Assad regime.

But he's also criticizing his predecessor, Barack Obama. He said this about Obama's red line, that he failed to enforce.

He said, "If President Obama had crossed his stated red line in the sand, the Syrian disaster would have been ended long ago. Animal Assad would have been history."

But in 2013, President Trump actually warned the president against enforcing that red line. And now it seems that he has drawn one of his own.

What that big price to pay will be is unclear and here is what Homeland Security adviser Tom Bossert said about the options available to President Trump.



MARTHA RADDATZ, HOST, ABC "THIS WEEK": So is it possible they there will be another missile attack?

BOSSERT: I wouldn't take anything off the table. These are horrible photos. We're looking into the attack at this point.


PHILLIP: The National Security Council is expected to meet on this Syrian issue on Monday, as is the U.N. Security Council. But President Trump is coming into this situation, having already said in recent weeks that he wants to pull the United States out of Syria altogether.

He also does not have his full national security team in place. The president is still waiting for his CIA director to be confirmed and also is waiting for his secretary of state to be confirmed as well. His new national security adviser, John Bolton, his first day on the job is today -- Abby Phillip, CNN, White House.


ALLEN: Earlier we told you about one of the first chemical attacks in the Syrian civil war. Activists say more than 1,300 people were killed in 2013 during a sarin gas attack.

VANIER: Now a survivor of that attack is speaking out to CNN. Kassem Eid has since become a human rights activist and he says now is the time to intervene in Syria.


KASSEM EID, 2013 SYRIAN CHEMICAL ATTACK SURVIVOR: My message to the international community is that you should be ashamed. You are as guilty as Assad and Putin and Iran on the atrocities in Syria. For more than seven years, more than, I don't know, maybe 700,000

people got killed, millions of people got displaced. It's not just about the chemical weapons. I lived for two years under siege and bombardment. I used to eat from the trash cans alongside the other civilians under siege, just like the people in Douma and Eastern Ghouta, who've been enduring siege for many years.

I will tell the international community, you should do something right now to save whoever is left in Douma. People are forced to flee. Women will be detained and raped. Men will be slaughter. Children will be killed, just like they do each and every single time because it happened in my town. I survived it. I ask Ambassador Nikki Haley to resign because two month ago I went to her office in New York and I told her assistants that my friends on the ground are telling me that the Assad regime is planning on a large-scale chemical weapons attack.

All what they did was simply ignoring me.


VANIER: And that activist is also calling on President Trump to destroy the airports the Syrian regime has allegedly used --


VANIER: -- to launch chemical attacks.

ALLEN: U.S. military personnel are arriving along the U.S. border with Mexico but what will the National Guard be able to do to help secure the area?

We'll have a reporter on that coming up next.

VANIER: Plus Israeli forces and Palestinian protesters face off for the second straight weekend, the latest on the deadly clashes on the Israeli-Gaza border -- when we come back.






VANIER: Welcome back.

U.S. National Guard troops are moving into place following President Trump's promise to seal up the southern border with Mexico.

ALLEN: CNN's Kaylee Hartung reports on what they can and cannot do along the border.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) KAYLEE HARTUNG, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Two hundred fifty National Guard troops will be in place in their operational roles along the Texas and Mexico border. Many of these troops arriving over the course of the weekend, though, were planners.

They walked right into meetings with the Department of Homeland Security, Customs and Border Patrol agents to discuss the resources that needed to be allocated in different areas of the border and determine the operational roles that the rest of the troops --


HARTUNG: -- would be falling into.

At this point we have no pictures to show you of troops lined up on the border. What we can show you, a look inside some of these meetings that were taking place over the weekend. Again, discussing the resources needed to be allocated.

Handshakes shown through various military Twitter feeds, showing these border patrol agents welcoming National Guard troop leaders to their command post.

Now there is an important point to be made here, that federal troops cannot be involved in any law enforcement capacity. So you won't see National Guard troops apprehending anyone illegally trying to enter the United States. Rather they will be taking on roles that will allow the Customs and Border Patrol agents to do their jobs better out in the field.

These National Guard troops will be taking over desk jobs. They'll be doing intelligence gathering and surveillance. Again, to allow border patrol agents more flexibility and visibility to get out in the field and secure the U.S. border.


ALLEN: A small town in Saskatchewan, Canada, is remembering the victims of a deadly bus crash that has stunned the country.

VANIER: They held an emotional vigil for the 15 people who died when a tractor-trailer collided with a bus carrying a junior hockey team. The youngest victim was just 16 years old.

ALLEN: Fourteen people were also injured. Canadian police say they are investigating all aspects of the crash to figure out exactly how two vehicles collided.

German police have detained several people who reportedly were planning a knife attack on Sunday's Berlin half-marathon.

VANIER: That is according to a German newspaper. The popular event went on without incident. Police say the suspects were between 18 and 21 years old. The paper adds that the main suspect allegedly knew a Tunisian militant, who killed 12 people in a Christmas market attack in Berlin in 2016. And this comes barely a day after a truck slammed into a crowd in

Muenster, Germany.

ALLEN: Two people were killed, 20 others injured, when the driver plowed into a restaurant's open terrace and then fatally shot himself Saturday. Investigators now say he acted alone. For about him an perhaps his motives, here is CNN's Erin McLaughlin at the scene.


ERIN MCLAUGHLIN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): We still do not know why this happened, why a man acting alone plowed a van into a busy cafe, bringing horror to a sunny Saturday afternoon.

Police searched his van and his homes in East and West Germany.

Searches yielding few clues other than firecrackers, gas canisters and fake guns. They say they're chasing multiple leads. So far, no links to terror. No evidence of any political motive.

German media reports the suspect had a history of mental illness. Authorities say they're investigating that possibility.


HAJO KUHLISCH, CHIEF OF POLICE, MUNSTER POLICE DEPARTMENT (through translator): We cannot say that everything is finished. But what is very clear from the apartment search and the other related vehicles, also a container is that there is no indication of political background. We're assuming that the motives and causes are with the perpetrator himself.


MCLAUGHLIN: Authorities have yet to name the attacker other than to say he is 48 years old, German, lives in the area and had a record of petty crime. Police say that at the end of last month, he e-mailed his neighbor, making vague references to suicidal thoughts, but nothing to suggest a potential attack.

At least two people lost their lives in the attack. A 51-year-old woman and a 65-year-old man, 20 injured in this sleepy cathedral city shaken.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: One couldn't believe it. One had always felt, this cozy Muenster, everything happened all over the world, but we are safe here.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: People still are, you know, fighting for their life in the hospitals. And I think it's all these kind of things you feel with the people, you say my God, we could have sit here.


MCLAUGHLIN: Everyone here is now left with one simple question: why?

With the attacker dead of an apparent suicide, some fear we may never know for sure -- Erin McLaughlin, CNN, Muenster, Germany.


VANIER: Israeli forces and Palestinian protesters clashed for the second straight weekend over Israel's blockade along the Gaza border.

ALLEN: CNN's Oren Liebermann has the latest for us from Jerusalem.


OREN LIEBERMANN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: There is no question the border between Israel and Gaza remains tense after a second Friday of widespread protests along the security fence.

Sunday afternoon the Israeli military fired cross the border after they say three Palestinians crossed the fence into Israel, then crossed back into Gaza.

That gives you an idea of how sensitive the border area is right now. The most talked about story throughout the weekend has been the killing of Palestinian journalist Yaser Murtaja. Murtaja was wearing his press vest when he was shot and killed by Israeli forces on Friday according to the Palestinian ministry of health.

Hundreds attended his funeral including the head of Hamas in Gaza. Murtaja's death --


LIEBERMANN: -- and eight others killed on Friday has amplified, of course, of international criticism against Israel, accusing Israel of using disproportionate and indiscriminate force against Palestinian protesters in Gaza.

Reporters Without Borders, an international media watchdog said it's clear that Israel fired intentionally at Murtaja.

In response to CNN the Israeli military said it does not intentionally target journalists. The military said quote, "The circumstances in which journalist were allegedly hit by the IDF fire are not familiar with the IDF and are being looked into."

Israel, meanwhile, holds Hamas responsible for orchestrating the violence along the Gaza border. Israeli officials have said those who were shot were attempting to carry out attacks or breach the security fence.

Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman said there were no innocent civilians. He called the demonstrations a terror parade. Since the widespread demonstration began at the end of March, 31 Gazans have been killed by IDF forces according to the Palestinian ministry of health. Hundreds more have been injured by a live fire. PLO official Hanan Ashrawi slammed Israel's use of live fire in response to widespread Gaza protests, calling for international investigation into Israel's actions.

Obviously, the situation remain very fluid now but already we're expecting more protests this coming Friday. That's true for every Friday from now until mid-May. Even if the numbers were down from the previous week, each of these protests still has the potential to spark a much bigger conflict -- Oren Liebermann, CNN, Jerusalem.


ALLEN: Hungary's right-wing prime minister is celebrating another electoral victory. Activists warn he may become even more autocratic. Up next here, we explore what (INAUDIBLE) Europeans use to protect Hungary's democracy.


[01:30:06] VANIER: And good to have you back with us here in the CNN NEWSROOM. I'm Cyril Vanier.

ALLEN: I'm Natalie Allen. Here are our top stories.

VANIER: German police reportedly foiled a plan to attack Sunday's half-marathon in Berlin. The German newspaper reports several people were detained. The half-marathon went on as scheduled. And police say the suspects are between 18 and 21 years old.

According to reports, one allegedly knew a Tunisian militant who killed 12 people in a Christmas market attack in Berlin back in 2016.

ALLEN: A small town in Saskatchewan, Canada remember the victims of a deadly bus crash in a vigil Sunday. Fifteen people died, mainly players, two coaches among them when a tractor trailer collided with a bus carrying a junior hockey team. Fourteen others were injured. Canadian police are investigating how the two were able to collide.

VANIER: U.S. President Donald Trump is expressing optimism about dealing with China. He tweeted on Sunday that he would always be friends Chinese President Xi Jinping even though his administration proposes hitting China with as much as $150 billion in tariffs. Beijing promises its own tariffs in retaliation.

ALLEN: The U.S. President is condemning the Syrian government and its allies after an alleged chemical weapons attack in Douma. Some of the images we have seen from that attack have been quite disturbing. Dozens of civilians were reported killed in the attack Syria's government denies it's responsible. The U.N. Security Council set to hold an emergency session in the coming hours.

VANIER: Michael Shear joins us now. He's "The New York Times" White House correspondent, also a CNN political analyst. Michael -- what's going on right now at the White House? I assume they're deciding on a response. SHEAR: Right. Well, they are talking through what obviously is an emotional response that the President has to the chemical attack and trying to figure out what to do. You'll remember that a year ago, the President did take a strike after a similar chemical attack in Syria. And he sent a whole bunch of Tomahawk missiles.

But this time, you know -- a year later, you've not got a situation where the President has also talked very openly about wanting to get out of Syria and not have the United States mired in that civil war over there. So you've got these sort of two impulses by the President -- one is to look tough, and the other is to get out of Syria. And those are really clashing as the White House and the President tries to figure out what to do in response to this latest attack.

VANIER: But he does seem to be committed to some kind of response. I want to put up his tweets again. And he says, "There's going to be a price to pay." So if you look to the bottom of this tweet -- we're going to put it up -- he says, "President Putin, Russia and Iran are responsible for backing animal Assad. Big price." And then the next tweet, "To pay".

Michael -- what do you think that might be?

SHEAR: Well look, I mean, you know, this is an unpredictable president. We can only judge based on what he's done in the past. In the past as I said he did strike a kind of a one-time one-off strike. This isn't something that I think is likely to lead to a big escalation or permanent escalation in the troops over there especially given the President' desire to get out.

But, you know, if you take his tweet literally then, you know, I think there's a likelihood that there will be some kind of military response. And I don't think it's going to take very long. In other words, I don't think it will be weeks or more. I think it will happen rather quickly.

VANIER: You were saying there's some confusion as to the President's strategy towards Syria. Do you think that there's a contradiction in the two stated goals? Number one was the President said recently we want to get out of Syria quickly. And number two, we just read it, he wants Syria to pay a price and Russia to pay a price for what appears to be a chemical weapons attack. Can he have it both ways?

SHEAR: Well look, this has been a real contradiction in his policies dating back to before the time that he became president when Barack Obama was president and was trying to decide what to do in Syria, then-real estate mogul Donald Trump, private citizen Donald Trump was harshly critical of President Barack Obama for even considering taking action and chided him on Twitter by saying look, this is -- you should get out. There's nothing in it for the United States over there.

At the same time, his rhetoric once he became President was to be very tough. And he did take action a year ago in a similar situation. So -- and then again he's bounced back again in recent weeks as he said that he wants to get out of Syria. So I think the challenge for trying to figure out what the National Security Council and the President and his advisers will do is trying to sort of parse these two contradictions.

[01:35:05] And you know -- I mean look, I think the greatest likelihood is that something will happen and that he will take some action. But he's unpredictable and I think he likes it that way.

VANIER: You mentioned the National Security Council. And there's a new ingredient there because John Bolton, the new national security adviser to the President, starts his job tomorrow. And we know he's going to be meeting what's called a meeting of principals. And he's going to be -- it's his job to lay out options for the President.

What do we know about John Bolton that could bring in some new element to the Syria strategy? What might he be advising the President?

SHEAR: Well, if you go on John Bolton's long record, both serving in government and as a kind of national security pundit over the last several years, you'd have to conclude that what John Bolton is likely to be whispering in the ear to Donald Trump would be to take action. He's a guy who tends to be a military hawk and somebody who doesn't shirk from these kinds of confrontations.

So to the extent that he's providing his own views to the President, that's likely what it would be. However, you got to remember that the national security adviser role is supposed to be one that is less putting your own thumb on the scale and more providing all of the options for the President to consider.

And so you know, I think a lot of people think he's not going to be that kind of national security adviser, that he's going to weigh in more forcefully, but as you say it's his first day tomorrow. And so we don't know for sure how he's going to respond and what kind of national security adviser he'll be in that respect. But I think the betting is that he's probably advising the President to act and act swiftly.

VANIER: All right. We'll be following that tomorrow on CNN. It happens on Monday, both the National Security Council meeting of principals there. Also we'll be following the U.N. -- the United Nations Security Council emergency meeting on this to see what comes out of that.

Michael Shear -- thank you very much for joining us.

SHEAR: Sure, happy to do it.

VANIER: Human rights activists are concerned about the results of Hungary's parliamentary election. Most of the votes have been counted and right wing Prime Minister Viktor Orban is set to secure his third consecutive term in office. He has tried to create what he calls an illiberal democracy.

ALLEN: Critics say he has undermined free media and judicial independence. The prime minister also campaigned heavily against immigrants and the U.N. Human Rights chief has labeled some of his rhetoric as racist. This is what Mr. Orban told supporters on Sunday.


VIKTOR ORBAN, HUNGARIAN PRIME MINISTER (through translator): First I would like to congratulate the voters. Thank you for your participation. Turnout has cast aside all doubt.

There was a big battle behind us. We have won a crucial victory, got a chance -- gave ourselves a chance to defend Hungary.


ALLEN: CNN European affairs commentator Dominic Thomas joining us from Los Angeles. Dominic -- thank you for talking with us about this.

All right. So here we are right wing, nationalist Prime Minister gets a third term in Hungary. What does this signal? Where might he be taking the country.

DOMINIC THOMAS, CNN EUROPEAN AFFAIRS COMMENTATOR: Right. Well, we know where he's taking the country because as you just mentioned this is his third and consecutive term. And what's remarkable is it comes on the heels of the Italian elections where far right anti-immigration parties did very well.

And in fact for the past two years, parties that have ran on an anti- immigration stance, talking about national identity, talking about sort being again Islam and at the same time criticizing the European Union have done very well.

And this is what Orban's campaign focused on. In many ways it was a national election, it was a referendum on Orban and he's come out and emerged from this with a super majority and with opposition parties in -- actually in disarray which has therefore consolidated him and, of course, led people to a greater level of anxiety about what this will mean for the region and for Europe, as well.

ALLEN: Right. Because you mentioned this referendum, this type of referendum has taken place in other countries in Europe. To that point former secretary of state Madeleine Albright said this week that the world is facing the biggest threat toward the return of fascism since World War II and she cites Hungary, Turkey, Poland. Do you agree with that? And will his win embolden other leaders who are aligned with him?

THOMAS: Well, what we're seeing is really two European Unions in fact -- two global models emerging. It's not just a question of let's say Hungary and Poland. It's also when we look at the map today, the election that took place in Austria which returned a right and far- right wing coalition. We see the coalition talks in Italy involving far right parties. We're also embroiled in Brexit talks which were so much around the question of immigration and identity.

And at the same time, so many of these political parties have found legitimacy in the election of Donald Trump who has also been focusing on questions of national identity and border control. So I think that the European Union here is really at a very

significant crossroad. What's ironic, of course, is that a country like Hungary benefits tremendously financially from being a member of the European Union. It gets much more funding out of the E.U. than it puts in. And it also relies on the European Union as a major area in which trade takes place, yet criticizing the European Union especially on the question of immigration has proved incredibly important in recent elections.

And those candidates that have chosen to talk about protecting one's country from immigration and to protect the native population as they described them have been doing very, very well. And this is of course, threatening to Europe.

ALLEN: Right. Orban's tapped into people's fears of migrants but at some point if Hungary continues to erode democratically and that's the belief that it will, might voters have buyers' remorse? Are they somewhat being manipulated?

THOMAS: Well, I think absolutely, they're being manipulated by fear. And I think that this is where the European Union can respond in a more powerful manner. First of all as we know, getting into the Europe Union is an extraordinarily lengthy complex. It involves proving respect for the constitution, for the judicial system, for freedom of the press.

And yet we see it each time one of these to political parties comes to power, or shapes the political landscape of the country, that these issues are eroded. And I think that the European Union of course, wants to be very careful that it doesn't seem to be overreaching and then galvanize support for these leaders. It doesn't, at the same time, want to push these leaders particularly those located in the eastern part of Europe into the arms of the Russian Federation.

While I think at the same time, it needs to impose tougher sanctions or have tougher conversation with these leaders and ask them to adhere and respect the liberal democratic values of the European Union that are the conditions of membership and the condition of financial support through the European Union.

And that's where people like Orban could end up being increasingly vulnerable is if the E.U. starts to impose sanctions that could impact the daily lives of populations in places like Hungary who might then see through some of this racist and xenophobic rhetoric.

ALLEN: Wait and see if that happens.

As always, we appreciate your input. Dominick Thomas, joining us. Thank you -- Dominic.

THOMAS: Thank you -- Natalie.

ALLEN: All right. We're going down another path `next.

When you're dealing with a frozen river, you have two choices -- wait until it thaws or blow it up. Guess what China did? That's up. VANIER: Plus, Fiji faces another dangerous tropical cyclone just days

after getting battered by one that brought heavy flooding. We'll have more on that, as well.


ALLEN: If you're thinking, what the heck is that? Well, we're here to tell you.

This river froze so China blew it up. It happened Sunday on a river in northeastern China. Wait, there it goes again. It's cool. It's cool.

VANIER: Let me swoop in with an explanation here. So a series of detonations were carried it out to break the ice, you saw that, and prevent ice jams. This is the reason -- prevent ice jams which could be dangerous for people living nearby. There you go.

ALLEN: Pedram Javaheri is joining us now with a storm but what do you make of that crazy video and that idea?

VANIER: That was one for you -- Pedram.

PEDRAM JAVAHERI, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Of course that is not dangerous at all. That's incredible. That's a pretty cool video. Absolutely.

You know, we're going to talk about what's happening across portions of Fiji because once again for the first time in about seven days' span, we're getting another tropical system coming right through it. And of course, the Fijian Archipelago, 330 islands, a quarter of your screen right there -- that's the next system coming right through places such as Suva, Nadi was one area that was significantly impacted. And of course, this system brings with it another round of heavy rainfall.

Last week, six lives lost and that system was just a tropical cyclone strength. It was not a hurricane strength disturbance. But here was the end result in the community of Ba (ph) across this region. And you know, weather stations very remote, very hard to find but you can look at NASA-derived satellite estimated totals, area indicated in yellow right there -- that is 250 plus millimeters of rainfall coming down in a matter of just a few days in the past week.

So that area needless to say is saturated because of Josie. You see a track of Josie, really important to know -- I often tell people tropical systems although on forecast models are depicted as a straight line, they never ever move in a straight line.

This is the kind of meander or wobble; and this particular track, of course, the forecast depicts it as a straight line. But this will kind of undulate or oscillate back and forth between these regions. So areas of concern once again, those same communities that were impacted over the next 24 hours as the storm moves close -- guys

ALLEN: All right. Thank you for watching it -- Pedram. We'll see you later. JAVAHERI: Thank you.

VANIER: We have Pedram from the CNN weather center -- thank you. Always appreciate it.

Still to come on the show, the Philippines closing a top holiday destination to tourists. Why is the president calling this popular beach front a cesspool?

Stay with us.


ALLEN: The Philippines plans to close a popular island to tourists for a clean-up that could take up to six months.

VANIER: Some people however are saying the government is cutting off their source of income. Our Alexandra Field has more.


ALEXANDRA FIELD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: They come for the sun, those white sand beaches, the surf -- seemingly clear blue waters. This is Boracay, one of the Philippines' most visited islands. Two million came in 2017.

Now it's being called a cesspool by the country's own president. The island, government officials say, is overrun with trash and has a wastewater problem.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: On the height of it we had basically the first ten meters on the shoreline raw sewage. It was yellowish, smelly. I mean you could really smell it.

FIELD: And this is a place that people are coming from round the world to visit?


FIELD: This is one of the most famous beaches in Boracay but all along it you'll find these big drainage pipes. They're meant for storm runoff but locals say that for years, they've been seeing raw sewage flowing right out of it.

At the end of April, Boracay's beach party ends for as many as six months' clean up and repair work that's already under way -- measures to deal with problems caused by rapid development.

Locals say the water looks better already but that little notice of a sweeping shutdown could leave them without businesses to come back to.

ULI STECHER, WATER SPORTS SCHOOL: You could have done it in a less dramatic way. You don't need to shut down an entire island. You could have done phase by phase.

FIELD: And what will this mean for you -- for your business? STECHER: Basically a standstill. No more income -- zero; and also

the employees, no more income.

Uli Stecher runs a water sport school. He fears his employees will leave to find work on other islands and that they won't come back. Those who make their money off of Boracay's wind and waves have an even bigger fear that tourists won't come back either.

KRISTOPHER NACOR, BUSINESS OWNER: The damage is done already.

FIELD: Kristopher Nacor says his water sports business is losing money even before the official shut down begins.

NACOR: They said, we don't want to come back to Bulabog because it's dirty. So it's -- I mean it's affecting us already.

FIELD: Swimming will be banned. Flights are being canceled. The government says calamity funds will be available for affected workers.

Still (INAUDIBLE) Salvador is a tour guide who says he isn't sure how he'll get by.

Boracay is popular the world over as a wedding destination.

AMANDA TIROL, WEDDING PLANNER: I ended up crying. She ended up crying. We were both crying -- very emotional, of course.

[01:55:01] FIELD: Wedding planner, Amanda Tirol says her employees, her vendors and her venues will all feel the effect.

Then there is the heartbreak, too.

TIROL: All of a sudden the wedding of their dreams can't happen anymore. We actually have some brides that were crying and saying, you know, the wedding of their dreams aren't going to happen anymore.

FIELD: The promise is that Boracay will look better by the time the next high season surged six months from now. The fear here is that visitors won't come back to see it.

In Boracay -- Alexandra Field, CNN.


VANIER: In Pyongyang, North Koreans and foreigners hit the ground running Sunday for the city's annual marathon. The event marks national founder Kim Il-sung's birthday -- birth back in 1912. It's normally a chance for Western tourists to get a peek into this secretive country.

ALLEN: But the number of foreign runners was down more than 50 percent from last year amid political tensions and the U.S.-imposed ban on Americans visiting the country.

VANIER: All right. Just before we wrap this up, back to the Philippines real quick for another race in the capital -- the country's very first underpants run, because why not?

ALLEN: Why not? Men and women making their way through the streets of Manila in unusual outfits -- (INAUDIBLE) than the normal running shorts -- look good to me.

VANIER: I'm there next year. That's me, next year.

Thank you for watching CNN NEWSROOM. I'm Cyril Vanier.

ALLEN: I'm Natalie Allen. The news continues next.