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World Leaders Action in Syria Being Questioned; Trump Wants to Pull Out Troops in Syria; Comey Calls Trump Unfit for Office. Aired 3- 4a ET

Aired April 16, 2018 - 03:00   ET

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


[03:00:00] (JOINED IN PROGRESS)

ROSEMARY CHURCH, HOST, CNN: Of a CNN exclusive report on the Syrian -- Civil War. The town where the revolution began could be the regime's next target.

CYRIL VANIER, HOST, CNN: Morally unfit to be president. Former FBI Director James Comey says President Donald Trump doesn't belong in the White House.

And later, firefighters working hard to control a roaring bush fire near Sydney, Australia.

Live from the CNN Newsroom in Atlanta, I'm Rosemary Church.

VANIER: And I'm Cyril Vanier. Good to have you with us.

So we want to start this hour with the aftermath of allied strikes in Syria. Leaders in France, the U.S. and the U.K. are facing questions over joint military action. More than 100 missiles were fired early Saturday against Syria's chemical weapons program.

French President Emmanuel Macron said Sunday that U.S. President Donald Trump needed convincing about the U.S. role in Syria.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

EMMANUEL MACRON, PRESIDENT OF FRANCE (through translator): Ten days ago, President Trump said the U.S.'s will is to disengage from Syria. We convince him that it is necessary to stay. And I believe that on the diplomatic front, beyond what went on, these three strikes which are one part but for me it is not the most important in what is going on in Syria.

Please be reassured we've convinced him that we had to stay on in the long term. The second thing is we convinced him we had to limit the strikes to chemical weans even though there had been a media tick uproar by way of tweets which you may have been aware of.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CHURCH: In response to President Macron's comments, the White House issued this statement. "The U.S. Mission has not changed. The president has been clear that he wants U.S. forces to come home as quickly as possible." She went on to say, "We expect our regional allies and partners to take greater responsibility both militarily and financially for securing the region."

VANIER: Mr. Trump's order to strike Syria is getting bipartisan support in the U.S. But British Prime Minister Theresa May on the other hand has some explaining to do. She is set to face parliament in the coming hours where she will be telling lawmakers that striking Syria was the right thing to do.

Many British politicians especially in the opposition question her decision to launch strikes without parliament's approval. The strikes were prompted by a suspected chemical attack just over a week ago.

President Trump slammed Russia for its support of Syria after that. His ambassador to the U.N. said Sunday that Russia can expect more sanctions.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

NIKKI HALEY, UNITED STATES AMBASSADOR TO THE UNITED NATIONS: So you will see that Russian sanctions will be coming down. Secretary Mnuchin will be announcing those on Monday if he hasn't already. And they will go directly to any sort of companies that were dealing with equipment related to Assad and chemical weapons used.

And so I think everyone is going to feel it at this point. I think everyone knows that we sent a strong message and our hope is that they listened to it.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CHURCH: Despite all this, Russia and Syria appear defiant. Syrian President Bashar al-Assad is even reportedly in a good mood. He met with Russian lawmakers Sunday. Both countries are downplaying the impact of joint strikes.

Well, CNN has correspondents covering this story across the world.

VANIER: CNN's Nick Make Paton Walsh is in northern Syria, Atika Shubert in Paris, Erin McLaughlin is in London. So we've got all three countries that took part in the strikes covered. Nick, let's start with you in Syria. Tell me first just how you're reacting to those words that reporting that President Assad is in a good mood following those strikes.

NICK PATON WALSH, INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT, CNN: Well frankly, why would he not be at this point. The strikes themselves carried out very focused on certain plants. Now there's a matter of debate as to exactly what extent of the chemical weapons program was contained within those two Homs sites and the (Inaudible) facility on the outskirts of Damascus.

Bear in mind, a week's worth of telegraphing from Donald Trump gave the Syrian regime a chance to potentially move some things out. The Pentagon maintained they struck at the heart of it but they still accept it's likely some chemical weapons capacity exist. Although I think frankly, if you were Damascus now you probably had a

few phone calls from Moscow and Tehran, your backers saying look, guys, do we really have to go through the last 10 days of international focus given they've frankly, within impunity managed to massacre Syrian civilians over the past months and years particularly in that area of Ghouta until chemical weapons were in fact used and that brought the international community's actual action.

It will be interesting to see exactly what the sanctions do later on today from the United States that could potentially bring some level of discomfort towards Russia which Bashar al-Assad may in turn be made to feel by his sponsors.

We know the one thing that really upsets the Kremlin is economic sanctions. It will upset their elite's ability to live elsewhere in the world that isn't Russia to put their children in school in the west to have houses where they can go on holiday.

But still, the issue now is how does this leave the Syrian civil war. I would say probably, mostly unaffected.

[03:05:02] There is one key message though, Cyril, that, you know, have to take away from the last few days. Outside of the likely discomfort from Russia and Iran of what their sort of client state Syria has in fact done, the unnecessary focus they brought with the use of chemical weapons.

The second thing is that U.S. military power, whether you like it or not, has shown its prevalence again in the Middle East. That's not something we saw really much during the Obama administration. It was something muted against ISIS, but quite clearly, with a warning supplied diplomatically to Russia that they weren't the target, the U.S. was able to hit what they wanted to when they wanted to hit it.

And that certainly, I think undermines the kind of growing sense of Russia being resurgent militarily in the region and makes people slightly more conscious of the limits of their power. Moscow were presumably told when action happened to get out of its way through the de-confliction lines but they didn't choose to intercepted effectively if they were not physically able to do so.

A lot of the suggestion that Syrian regime was the new Soviet era into a cross distance and intercepted the vast majority of the missiles. But frankly, that seems unrealistic even though if they were using the highest end technology dealing with missiles launched from B-1 bombers with the highest technology.

So, you know, we're talking really I think about a regime now that's probably dusted itself down, trying to show the very best of it. I'm sure behind the scenes their sponsors frankly are not particularly happy about the pressure they're under now and about the focus of the last week on what's been going on.

And also to the U.S. I think has shown again, that it's able, whether you like it or not and there's no reason for sort of hubris here to be able to inflict military power in the Middle East as it wishes. That could have a negative consequence and possibly in the future if Russia decides to it needs to show some element of military capability here, as well. Cyril?

VANIER: Nick Paton Walsh with a great reporting there from Syria. We appreciate your input. Thank you.

CHURCH: All right. Let's get the view now from Europe.

VANIER: CNN's Atika Shubert is in Paris. Erin McLaughlin is in London.

CHURCH: So Atika -- Atika Shubert, let's go to you first in Paris. So, we know at this point that France's President Emmanuel Macron has said he convinced President Trump to stay put in Syria despite saying earlier that he was going to take troops out. But the White House doesn't agree. So what is going on here, has Macron overstepped the mark?

ATIKA SHUBERT, CHIEF INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT, CNN: Well, this was part of a very wide ranging interview here. You know, more than two- hour live interview. They got into the nitty-gritty of economic details. But again, he was pressed on Syria policy in particular.

And it was interesting that he came out and clearly suggested that France had this influence over President Trump that not only convincing him to keep troops there in Syria but also to limit the strikes to chemical weapon sites just as President Trump was in middle of that sort of Twitter tirade a few days ago.

So it's interesting that President Macron said that there is no way for us to know what was going on in President Trump's mind. He's the only one that can answer whether or not he was truly influenced by what President Macron said. But what it does show is this growing close relationship between President Macron and President Trump.

And I think just to underscore what Nick said earlier, you know, it does shows again the prevalence of U.S. military might in the region, just when everyone was wondering if the U.S. was going to pull out, the U.S. is suddenly now back in the game and showing that it wants to influence. And I think this is what Macron was trying to say was that, you know, there was some concern the U.S. might be pulling out, but we now know it's there to stay.

VANIER: Erin McLaughlin in London, tell us about Theresa May and what situation she finds herself in today because of the three leaders who took part in those strikes, Mr. Trump, Mr. Macron, Theresa May, she seems to be the one who has the hardest time with it politically speaking domestically.

MCLAUGHLIN: Absolutely, Cyril. That's mainly because she has operating with a minority government in a politically fragile situation. And we can expect today a heated debate here at parliament. MP's are absolutely furious at her decision not to recall parliament from its Easter recess to put potential military strike to a vote. And we expect them to air their concerns in that debate today. The debate will be preceded by a statement by Theresa May. Downing

Street already releasing excerpts of that statement in which she's expected to argue that this was in the U.K.'s national interests to participate in those strikes. That it was necessary to ward off further humanitarian crisis which Downing Street has pointed to as the legal basis for the strikes.

A legal basis which has been questioned by members of the opposition specifically Jeremy Corbyn who says that he would only countenance military strikes in Syria with U.N backing.

[03:10:09] But we can expect Theresa May to push back on that, pointing to Russia's veto of any number of Syria related resolutions at the Security Council. So that is what we can expect to play out today.

What is unclear is whether or not there's going to be some sort of vote at the end of the debate. Something that is likely to make Downing Street at this point extremely nervous given that it has seen the British public opinion is divided on the topic and given again that she has a minority government.

CHURCH: Erin McLaughlin, thanks to you. Let's go back to Atika Shubert in Paris. Atika, let's talk more about this two-hour interview that President Emmanuel Macron had where he emphasized how much control he appeared to have in all of this. And what would be the next step for France, do you think, given that he seems to be showing that he has quite a dominant role.

MCLAUGHLIN: He clearly wants to show that. And remember, this is an interview that have been scheduled long before. It was basically to mark his one-year since his election. And so he clearly wanted to show that he was in control, not only of military policy but also of economic policy here. And so it was very wide ranging.

But it's clear that France is also leading the diplomatic effort now. It's drafted the new Security Council resolution that will be debated later today. It wants to see specifically a renewed emphasis on peace talks.

Now we know that those Geneva talks that happened last year fell apart. They've really gone nowhere. But France wants to try, and perhaps find some leverage from these strikes especially with what appears to be President Trump's renewed interest in Syria, maybe to try to and get Assad to the negotiating table. And France clearly wants to show that it's in the lead on that.

CHURCH: Many thanks to Atika Shubert in Paris, Erin McLaughlin in London, and Nick Paton Walsh in northern Syria.

Well, next here on CNN Newsroom, fired FBI Director James Comey gets candid about Donald Trump, the man he calls morally unfit to be president.

VANIER: Plus, Mr. Trump's personal lawyer ordered to appear in court and he will not be alone. Someone else will be listening to him closely. Somebody who's name will sound familiar. We'll tell you after break.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KATE RILEY, SPORT ANCHOR, CNN: I'm Kate Riley with your CNN world sport headlines.

It might not have happened the way they wanted it but Manchester City have sealed being this Premier League title from their armchairs on Sunday as local rivals Man United lost at home handing the title over.

[03:15:09] That was the way that West Brom top Man United 1-nil at home of city captain Vincent Kompany. City win their third Premier League title in the past seven seasons.

Daniel Ricciardo has won the Chinese Grand Prix Formula One's third race of the season. The Australian was emotional after victory. He kneel he almost wasn't able to race at all after his car blew an engine in the final practice just a day earlier. But his rebel crew got the car ready and Ricciardo did his part passing five cars en route to his six career title.

Finally, the 21st Commonwealth Games have come to a close on the Gulf Coast. While Australia, the host topping the table with a phenomenal 80 gold medals. The retired eight-time gold Olympic gold medalist Usain Bolt wasn't competing of course but wowed the crowds with his presence over the past few days including a deejay set at the game's closing ceremony.

One of Australia's final gold medal was a one sided man's basketball final beating Canada 87 to 47. By the next games are in Birmingham, England in four years time.

And that's a look at all your sports headlines. I'm Kate Riley.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS, CHIEF ANCHOR, ABC NEWS: Do you think the Russians have something on Donald Trump?

JAMES COMEY, FORMER UNITED STATES FBI DIRECTOR: I think it's possible. I don't know. And it could be these are more words I never thought I would utter about the President of the United States, but it's possible.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VANIER: All right. Well, that sets the tone of that interview. That was fired FBI Director James Comey. Not pulling any punches when it comes to his former boss Donald Trump.

CHURCH: Yes. And that interview with ABC News was the first stop of Comey's media blitz to promote his new book.

Our U.S. justice correspondent Evan Perez has the details.

EVAN PEREZ, JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT, CNN: Former FBI Director James Comey say he thinks it's possible the Russians have compromising information on President Trump, and he says he thinks the man who fired him nearly a year ago is morally unfit to be president.

Comey's first televised interview with ABC News offered a blistering critique of the commander in chief who he says demanded loyalty from him and who he says lies about matters big and small.

President Trump has denied all of these claims and has mounted a blistering attack on Comey, calling him a liar and slime ball.

Comey says that last year, the early weeks of the administration, the president ask him to drop an investigation of his former national security adviser Michael Flynn who has now pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI. Could prosecutors consider what the president did obstruction of justice? Here's Comey on that question.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

STEPHANOPOULOS: Was President Trump obstructing justice?

COMEY: Possibly. It certainly some evidence of obstruction of justice.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

PEREZ: Comey is using the publication of his new book in a publicity tour this week and next to offer a blunt indictment of a president who is now under investigation by special counsel Robert Mueller in part, because he fired Comey.

In his book, the former FBI director describes his admiration of President Obama and other presidents. But asked about Trump, Comey says he's unfit to hold the office.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

COMEY: A person who sees moral equivalence in Charlottesville, who talks about and treats women like they're pieces of meat, who lies constantly about matters, big and small, and insists the American people believe it, that person is not fit to be president of the United States.

On more grounds, our president must embody respect and adhere to the values at the core of this country. The most important being truth. This president is not able to do, he is morally unfit to be president.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

PEREZ: Despite all the faults that he points to, Comey doesn't think Congress should impeach the president.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

COMEY: Because I think impeaching him removing Donald Trump from office would let the American people off the hook. People in this country need to stand up and go to the voting booth and vote their values.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

PEREZ: Comey also answered questions about his handling of the Hillary Clinton e-mail investigation. He says he might have done a few things differently but still believes that he made the right decisions based on his honest assessment.

Evan Perez, CNN, Washington.

CHURCH: And we are joined now by Scott Lucas, professor of international politics at the University of Birmingham. Good to have you with us.

VANIER: Scott, tell us what you thought of that interview. You just heard everything that the former FBI director had to say about Donald Trump. It could not have been any worse. What do you think?

SCOTT LUCAS, POLITICS PROFESSOR, UNIVERSITY OF BIRMINGHAM: Well, for you and I who have followed this on a day to day basis, we probably knew much of this already. James Comey has testified before Congress. He has some friends provided his thoughts on Donald Trump. He's even tweeted indirectly about the president.

But for someone knew the case of course this pulls it all together. You know, the immorality of the president, the lies, the narcissism, his misogyny, his questionable attitude towards race relations and of course Russia.

But I think those people who are invested in Donald Trump and who are supporting him they'll simply just hit back and say well, James Comey would say that, anyway he's a bitter man.

[03:20:03] For those supporters of Comey will say well, we knew this all along. Donald Trump shouldn't be in office. In other words, this was sort of mood music but the orchestra is still being conducted by special counsel Robert Mueller. In a few days, I predict we'll be back to asking whether the orchestra is going to be allowed to play.

CHURCH: Scott Lucas, I wanted to ask you about what he specifically said about Donald Trump and the Russians. He said I can't say that Trump hasn't been compromised by the Russians. That's extraordinary, but it's a very passive language rather than saying he's been compromised by the Russians. What's going on there?

LUCAS: Because the investigation is still going on. You know, James Comey of course, long time prosecutor, former FBI director, if he comes out and says I know Donald Trump was compromised by the Russians, he steps on the toes of the Mueller investigation.

But he's saying I think the president may have been compromised by the Russian, even I think that Donald Trump may have been in that master hotel room with prostitutes which is part of the Steele dossier that started to set out some of these charges, that's as good as saying yes, I think there is substance to what is being investigated. And that investigation should definitely proceed. VANIER: Scott, I think the credibility of James Comey is going to

matter a lot here. Not just his credibility but more than that people's perception of him. How they view his character when they assess what he's saying about the president. Now that we've seen him on TV and his book is coming out, how do you think that's going to play out, how do you think people are going to perceive him?

LUCAS: Well, you know, already this becomes murky because asking how we assess James Comey is that the Republican National Committee and Trump people have already gotten in to try to alter that perception by saying lying Comey.

We've got the president's old tweet war going on with Comey and we've got, let's be honest here, a lot of people who are conflicted because of Comey's role in the Clinton investigation, and specifically that dramatic announcement just before the election that may have influenced the outcome.

So, all of that is in play. I think that's why I say, again, you're talking about mood music, because if Trump's defenders want to attack Comey and say he's unreliable. They'll find reason to do it, they'll find outlets to do it.

Those are people who want to defend Comey they'll find reasons to do it, but as he sort of moves to the side, as you get beyond the headlines, the substance of what we're talking about here is not was -- it's not may Donald Trump have been compromise by the Russian but was he compromise by the Russians.

It's not may Donald Trump have acted inappropriately towards women but did he act inappropriately towards women. It's may he have been basically supportive of white supremacists but was he effectively supporting that.

All of that comes down to questions of fact rather than perception. And that of course, again, relies on the investigation going on right now in Washington.

CHURCH: And the other big issue that came out of that interview and we are aware of this of course, it has to be pointed out in reference to the former U.S. national security adviser Michael Flynn, he said that the, that Mr. Trump said, I hope you can let it go.

And we know that this happened. And the language that James Comey use again this passive language he thinks that Mr. Trump was possibly obstructing justice when he asked him to do that.

So again, we're hearing this, this ability for him to lay it out in this book, and after all, we do have to say he is trying to sell his book, isn't he? And so there are a lot of aspects to this that people will sort of sit back and go, OK, what is going on here with that language, as well.

LUCAS: But let's get beyond the language to what James Comey says happened and then explain that statement in the wider context. And that is James Comey has said that Donald Trump may have obstructed justice on a few occasions. He said that that may he been the case when he was asked to drop the investigation into Michael Flynn. He has indicated he thinks that may have been the case over his own firing when Donald Trump within hours of dismissing Comey was celebrating with the Russians.

He cannot say this was obstruction of justice because that is a political and legal finding. And the person who swings at the king is not James Comey in the end. It's Robert Mueller, the man who has still not said a word since May 2017 when he was appointed special counsel.

VANIER: All right. Scott Lucas speaking to us from Birmingham in the U.K. Thank you very much. We appreciate it.

CHURCH: Thank you.

LUCAS: Thank you.

CHURCH: Well, Donald Trump's personal attorney Michael Cohen has been ordered to appear in court Monday.

VANIER: Cohen's office, home and hotel room were raided by the FBI last week. The judge ordered Cohen to attend Monday's hearing on how the seized materials will be handled. Lawyers for the president call the federal searches disquieting and they filed court papers to make sure that Cohen's attorney/client confidentiality isn't breached.

[03:25:05] We got more now from CNN's Sara Murray.

SARA MURRAY, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, CNN: President Trump's long time personal attorney Michael Cohen who we now know is under criminal investigation is slated to appear in court in New York today. And it could be a little bit more awkward than previously anticipated. That's because the adult film star that Cohen paid to silence her story is also now slated to appear.

Stormy Daniels' attorney says that her appearance has nothing to do with trying to provoke Michael Cohen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MICHAEL AVENATTI, STORMY DANIELS' ATTORNEY: It's intended to send the message that this is a very, very serious matter for her and she wants to make sure that the American people know that she's behind efforts to bring to light as much information and documents as possible. She also wants to ensure that she is heard and that she's represented at the hearing. It has nothing to do with getting in his head at all.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MURRAY: Now Cohen's attorneys were in court on Friday trying to argue that investigators should not be able to review the evidence they collected from raids on Michael Cohen's home, office, as well as his hotel room insisting they could violate attorney/client privilege.

Prosecutors say there's little evidence Michael Cohen was doing much lawyering and they say that they're not looking for evidence about his fine working as a lawyer but rather about his own personal business dealings.

The judge not particularly entertained by the actions from Michael Cohen's attorneys and said they need to provide evidence of who Cohen lists as clients by Monday morning.

Back to you, guys.

VANIER: Coming up, Syria's civil war grinds on after joint strikes by the U.S., by France, and the U.K. The area that might be the next target of a government assault, we'll tell you about that, next.

CHURCH: Plus, in Australia, a massive bush fire rages on the outskirts of Sydney. We will have the latest on the battle against that blaze.

We're back in a moment.

[03:30:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ROSEMARY CHURCH, CNN NEWSROOM HOST: Welcome back to "CNN Newsroom." I'm Rosemary Church.

CYRIL VANIER, CNN NEWSROOM HOST: And I'm Cyril Vanier. Time to update you on the top stories CNN is following for you right now, starting with this one, fired FBI Director James Comey gave a frank interview to ABC News.

In the interview, he called U.S. President Donald Trump morally unfit to be present. That has come just days before the release of Comey's book about his short and turbulent involvement with the 2016 presidential campaign and and the ensuing Trump administration.

CHURCH: President Trump's personal attorney has been ordered to appear in court Monday. The hearing covers how materials the FBI seized from Michael Cohen's office and hotel room will be handled. Adult film actress Stormy Daniels will also be there. She says Cohen paid her to keep quiet about an alleged affair with Mr. Trump in 2006.

VANIER: The Starbucks CEO Kevin Johnson is calling the arrest of two African-American men in a Philadelphia branch of the coffee chain reprehensible. Employees said the two men have asked to use the restroom while waiting for a friend but they were refused as they were not customers. Video of the arrest then went viral, sparked the accusation of discrimination.

CHURCH: Former U.S. First Lady Barbara Bush is in failing health. That is according to a source close to the Bush family. The wife of former President George H.W. Bush has been battling lung disease and congestive heart failure for the past couple of years. She is one of just two women in U.S. history to be both wife and mother of a president.

VANIER: He's an international pariah. He's ordered the deaths of thousands of his own people and western powers just attacked his country over suspected chemical weapons use. CHURCH: But Syrian President Bashar al-Assad is reportedly in a good mood. Russian state media say he met with Russian lawmakers Sunday. Both countries are being defiant after joint strikes by the U.S., France, and the United Kingdom. This as the U.S. threatens more sanctions against Russia for its support of Syria.

VANIER: For more on this, CNN's Jomana Karadsheh joins us live from Amman, Jordan. She is one of our reporters covering the story. Jomana, the Syrian civil war is going to continue. Everybody agrees on that. What do you think is going to happen next?

JOMANA KARADSHEH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, that's the big question, Cyril. You know, you look at what is going on the ground and there is no question that it is the Syrian regime and its allies who have the upper hand. Just a few hours after the U.S.-led strikes, the regime declared victory in Eastern Ghouta, the site of the alleged chemical attack.

And not really has so many civilians who are living in the handful of areas in the country that remain under rebel control living in fear of what might be coming next as we found out in this CNN exclusive from Southern Syria.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

KARADSHEH (voice over): After months of relative calm on the southern front, this. Airstrikes and shelling reported in Daraa Province despite U.S., Russia, and Jordan (INAUDIBLE) ceasefire last summer.

And with the regime backed by its allies on the ground and in the sky capturing more territory from the opposition, some feel it's a matter of time before an offensive to reclaim the south, the birthplace of the Syrian revolution.

There seems to be a strange sense of normalcy on the streets of the city, but almost everyone interviewed fears what might be coming.

We expect an attack on Daraa any minute. We are worried about women and children from Russian airstrikes, this woman says.

We are afraid of the attack on us because the Russian strikes will spare no human nor stone and they will use all weapons on us, this Daraa resident says.

Before the truce, like other parts of Syria, Daraa was hard hit, leaving much of the city and the province divided between the regime and the opposition.

Civilians like Rifaat al-Nasser (ph) were displaced by the fighting. He says recent strikes were near his home, leaving him no choice but to flee once again. Now, he's a squatter in a town close to the Jordanian border, but al-Nasser (ph) says, nowhere is safe.

RIFAAT AL-NASSER (ph), DISPLACED SYRIAN (through translator): I am worried for myself, for my children. I am afraid that what happened in Ghouta would happen here. This regime can do thinking. They don't care. They use chemicals, cluster bombs, and phosphorus.

KARADSHEH (voice over): The Syrian government has repeatedly denied the use of chemical weapons. Rebel commanders from the free Syrian army once receiving what they described as insufficient support from the U.S. and other allies, now say the international community has left them to face Russia and Iran alone.

[03:35:09] UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): We have prepared ourselves for what is coming. The days ahead will have many surprises, so we must be ready to overcome this phase. We have taken several measures; military, social, inspecting front lines, and meeting with the people to reassure them that everything is good and we are ready to face the worst case scenario.

KARADSHEH (voice over): Any attempts to change the status quo here, bringing Iranian forces closer to a border shared with Jordan and Israel, could mean the start of yet complicated chapter in this seemingly endless war.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

KARADSHEH: And, you know, Cyril, no one really knows if there will be a regime offensive to go after these areas that remain under rebel control. President Assad in the past has vowed to recapture every inch of Syrian territory.

And it's not just in Daraa where people are living in fear of the possibility of a regime-led attack, they're also really worried in the north, in Idlib Province. That is where millions of displaced Syrians are. A lot of them have been pushed out of their homes in different parts of the country that were recaptured by the regime.

And in recent months, we have seen so many airstrikes taking place there, a high number of civilian casualties. And aid groups started describing Idlib as a "kill box."

CHURCH: And Jomana, just following on from that, your reporting was incredible. Of course we see that the war -- the conflict continues there in Syria. And what is difficult to grasp is in the aftermath of those strikes, the airstrikes by the United States, the United Kingdom and France, we see U.S. President Donald Trump tweet, mission accomplished.

It is nowhere near accomplished. A lot of people find that sort of language abhorrent when we see what is happening there. And barrel bombs are just as bad if not worse than chemical weapons. So why do we continually see the red line drawn when it comes to chemical weapons and yet the international community seems to turn their backs when we are talking about barrel bombs?

KARADSHEH: Well, first of all, Rosemary, when it comes to this quote, unquote, mission accomplished, no one really knows what the mission is overall when you talk about Syrian and the U.S. goals in that country.

And when you talk about red lines, you talk about attacks, the intervention by the international community, you talk to Syrians and they always ask that same question, why is it that the international community feels it has to act when these alleged chemical attacks take place?

Syrians will tell that it's not these alleged chemical attacks that kill the hundreds of thousands of people or have killed the hundreds of thousands of people. It is conventional weapons. It's the barrel bombs. It's the airstrikes. And they do continue.

You know, chemical attacks are horrific, to say the least. The images that emerged from these attacks really do seem to turn into a wake-up call for the international community, forcing it to act.

But for Syrians or the civilians who are living through this grinding conflict, they tell you that they don't feel that the United States or its allies acted here or they act in general when it comes to these so-called red lines because they are doing this for the sake of the Syrian people.

They feel that this is about these world powers, their own interest, and their own so-called red lines, Rosemary.

CHURCH: Jomana Karadsheh, we thank you so much, joining us there from Amman, Jordan.

VANIER: CNN global affairs analyst David Rohde joins us now. David, now that the dust has had time to settle a little bit after the Syria strikes, what would you say is Washington's policy in Syria?

DAVID ROHDE, CNN GLOBAL AFFAIRS ANALYST: I think it's to keep Bashar al-Assad in power. Many reasons of the strikes were small but I think one of them was to not destabilize his government. The second policy would be absolutely to avoid a direct confrontation with Russia. But I think the reality is, you know, Assad is here to stay and the United States is tacitly supporting that.

VANIER: David, Syrian state TV put up pictures the morning after the strikes of Bashar al-Assad coming into work, looking cool, calm and relaxed. Would it be fair to say that he doesn't need to worry about western countries bombing and just provided, provided he doesn't use chemical weapons?

ROHDE: I think that's very clear. That's a very clear statement of these attacks. Essentially you can continue killing your people. You can hold on to power by whatever means necessary as long as you don't use chemical weapons.

[03:39:57] VANIER: The French president, Emmanuel Macron, says that France played a big part in convincing Mr. Trump to stay in Syria, not pull out hastily. Is it the first time that we've seen an ally of the U.S. actually changed Mr. Trump' mind on something that seemed to be a priority of his, in this instance, withdrawing from Syria?

ROHDE: I think it's definitely the first time we've seen a European leader be able to do that. There is some special chemistry, it seems, between Macron and Trump. And, you know, this applies to last question in terms of there is no sort of humanitarian, you know, principles guiding Trump's policy.

It is very much -- you know, he supports strong men, authoritarians, so, you know, he's happy to have Assad remain in power in Syria because he doesn't really make human rights a part of his administration's agenda.

This was more about -- I think Trump (INAUDIBLE) to make statement against, you know, chemical weapons. He had tweeted these attacks would happen. So now he is in Syria for a longer period to sort of save face, but not because of any kind of humanitarian concerns.

VANIER: And from a military perspective, is that -- is that a hard commitment to make for the U.S.? I mean to be able to maintain that capacity to strike Syria at any time?

ROHDE: It is. And the question is, you know, how emboldened is Assad and Russians and the Iranians by the small size of these attacks? Will they carry out another chemical attack and sort of call Trump's bluff. I don't think they will.

I think the last has happened about a year ago. There were no attacks for several months. I think that's what you'll see here. But essentially the United States is going to keep special forces in Syria and Eastern Syria to confront ISIS, to wipe out ISIS that helps Assad.

But essentially the United States is accepting that Assad will continue to brutally rule Syria. Human rights are not an issue for this administration. And this was a very small airstrike that will not change the course of war in any way.

VANIER: But for U.S., President Trump had a very spotty track record when it comes to enforcing their red line on chemical weapons. What do you think is going to be the bench mark for striking Syria again?

I mean is it just any use of chemical weapons by the Syrian regime or is it going to have to be a chemical attack that gets on TV like the last one we saw last weekend?

ROHDE: Look, I want to be respectful of President Trump. I think there are many factors that lead him to make decisions. But frankly, yes, I think if there are dramatic images on television, this concept of children dying, foaming of the mouth, suffocating as occurs in these horrible, horrible chemical attacks, the president does have really visceral reaction.

Trump does seem to feel he needs to act when that type of killings happened. Other weapon shootings, barrel bombs, you know, that don't get TV coverage, it does seem to get less attention from the Trump administration.

VANIER: What do you think are the things we need to look at just going forward on the Syrian battlefield and how the U.S. is reacting to that?

ROHDE: I think you'll see the Syrian government continue to take other remaining opposition enclaves. Douma, where the chemical attack was held, was taken right after the chemical attack by Syrian government forces. So, they will relentlessly get rid of those remaining pockets of opposition.

I don't expect them to use chemical weapons. I think it would be foolish for them to use chemical weapons. I wouldn't be surprised if it Moscow pressured Assad to not use chemical weapons, but I think you'll see relentless assaults with conventional weapons to take back these enclaves and the killings will continue and Assad will win.

I mean, let's be honest. Assad has won the war in Syria. Russia Russia has won the war in Syria. Iran has won. The United States has stayed out. And Assad is there to stay.

VANIER: All right. David Rohde, laying it out for us, CNN's global affairs analyst. Thank you very much. Good to talk to you.

ROHDE: Thank you.

CHURCH: We'll take a short break here. Still to come on "CNN Newsroom," a series of horrific crimes has provoked nationwide protest in India. Why thousands have taken to the streets. We're back with that in just a moment.

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CHURCH: Thousands of protesters took to the streets in major Indian cities again Sunday, demanding justice in cases involving rapes and assaults of minors, including the brutal killing of an 8-year-old Muslim girl. Police say the child was abducted, gang raped, and murdered by a group of Hindu men in the Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir.

VANIER: The case has inflamed religious tensions in the region. The Hindu nationalist group claims the local Muslim police force investigating the case has biased against the accused.

CHURCH: And for more, I'm joined now by CNN's New Delhi bureau chief Nikhil Kumar. Thank you so much for being with us. So, Nikhil, the details of this case are particularly horrifying and protesters are now demanding justice for all rape and assault victims. How likely is it that they will get that justice?

NIKHIL KUMAR, CNN NEW DELHI BUREAU CHIEF: That's right, Rosemary. This case and another case involving a 16-year-old have really sparked national outrage in this country. For the last week, there have been headlines.

This morning, this is a major newspaper here, the Sun Times (ph), the Delhi edition, rape outrage spills over streets into India. There have been protests not just in Delhi but around the country as the details of these cases emerged.

The 8-year-old case involving the 8-year-old that you mentioned it occurred in Jammu and Kashmir, it occurred in January. According to details filed by the investigators earlier this month, from what we've learned, she belonged to a nomadic Muslim community in this Hindu- dominated area. She went out into a meadow where she was abducted and gang raped and brutally murdered.

The other case dates from last year and involves a 16-year-old and the allegation there is that the accused, one of the accused say he's a member of the local government which is run by Prime Minister Narenda Modi's party, Bharatiya Janata Party, and People's Party which is from of course the Hindu right-wing.

And all of this, the fact that that accused is from that party and there were concerns about whether the government was trying to sort of slow justice being done. And in Kashmir with the 8-year-old where some people actually stood up.

And, you know, in defense of the accused, saying that the authorities were biased against them and tried to block the investigation. And all of that has sparked national anger, outrage, and concern. Rosemary?

CHURCH: Understandably so. Nikhil Kumar, thank you so much for joining us and bringing us up-to-date on that horrifying story. Great mission.

We'll take another short break. Still to come, a massive bushfire rages on the outskirts of Sydney. We will have the latest on efforts to stop it and the investigation into the cause of it.

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CHURCH: A massive bushfire that has burned more than 2400 hectares near Sydney, Australia is still burning out of control. No lives have been lost to the flames so far. Police are investigating the cause of the blaze, believing it may have been lit deliberately.

VANIER: Let's go to Pedram Javaheri. He is standing by at CNN Weather Center. Pedram?

PEDRAM JAVAHERI, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Good morning, guys. You know, it's (INAUDIBLE) to think about how this particular fire could have been delivered and set on purpose across this region. Really frightening because people are asking me when is the worst time really to have an open fire in general across this region of Australia. It would have to be sometime last week.

Of course, we are coming off a tremendous warmth. I believe it was on this show about a week or two ago, I was talking to Rosemary, I believe it was about a hot dry, it has been across Australia and of course autumn starting off on an exceptionally hot note.

Now we are talking about a potential deliberate (ph) fire across this region just sitting 23 kilometers southwest of downtown Sydney, so very close proximity to town. And then you get up and look at the satellite images. You can clearly see the smoke being pushed off shore in a broad scale of everything (ph) across this region.

But the warmth has been in place. In fact, last Monday, we had among the hottest temperatures coming in, almost 37 degrees.

[03:55:02] They are the hottest April reading ever for Sydney. And then we've had nine consecutive days exceeding 25 degrees which have never happened in the month of April.

So all of this really goes to show how warm it's been and we know it's been exceptionally dry. Only two days of rainfall going back the last several weeks across this region. Gusty winds set in place on Friday. Of course, really set the blaze by Saturday when the flames were ignited.

I should say that really set the blaze to take a tremendous amount of land with it, upwards of 2800 hectares not consumed, roughly the size of Macao. It gives you a little bit of scale perspective. There are some better elements of weather in the forecast here. Some slightly cooler temperatures expected. Maybe a few showers going into Tuesday.

But you notice it does want to warm up rather rapidly going into the latter portion of the week. So firefighters really just had a couple of days to get the upper hand on these flames across that region.

Another story I want to follow here, speaking of warmth, look at what happens here across western areas of Europe. We talk about a warm up in store but not just any warm up, but July to August-like temperatures here before, anywhere near the summer season gets under way.

In fact, you take a look at London, climbed out of 14 all the way up to 25. Work your way towards Paris. We are talking about heatwave territory here. Upper 20s in Paris. Running a good 13 degrees above average, guys. So, big time warmth and a taste of summer from our friends across Western Europe.

CHURCH: Wow! Some pretty harsh temperatures there. We'll see whether they're sustained. Thanks so much, Pedram. Appreciate that. Thanks for watching "CNN Newsroom." I'm Rosemary Church.

VANIER: I'm Cyril Vanier. We are done for today but the news continues with Hannah Vaughan Jones in London. That means you are in great hands. Stay with CNN.

CHURCH: Have a great day.

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