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U.S. Signs Asylum Agreement with Guatemala; Supreme Court Lets President Trump Proceed with Border Wall but Legal Fight Continues; Hong Kong Sees Eighth Consecutive Week of Protests; Biden Previews Aggressive Approach ahead of CNN Debates While Harris Says She Will Be Polite; Boris Johnson and Donald Trump Talk Trade Deal; White Helmets Photographer Killed in Airstrikes; Death the Norm in Syria as the World Turns a Blind Eye; JUUL Told Teens Vaping Totally Safe in School Info Sessions. Aired 5-6a ET

Aired July 27, 2019 - 05:00   ET




GEORGE HOWELL, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): A winning streak for Donald Trump: the U.S. president scoring two landmark victories on his immigration policies.

Denouncing violence: peaceful protesters return to the streets in Hong Kong. We have a live report ahead.

Also ahead this hour, once a safe haven, Syria's Idlib province is the country's most dangerous place for children.

Live from CNN World Headquarters here in Atlanta, we want to welcome our viewers from the United States and around the world. I'm George Howell. The CNN NEWSROOM starts right now.


HOWELL: 5:00 am on the U.S. East Coast. Two big wins for the U.S. president Donald Trump on immigration. The Supreme Court cleared the way for the trump Administration to use $2.5 billion of the Pentagon's money, at least for now, to build a border wall.

The U.S. signed an agreement with Guatemala, that agreement limits migrants from seeking asylum in the United States. Those coming from Guatemala have to apply for asylum there first. If they decide to move on and claim asylum at the U.S. border, they will be returned. Mr. Trump calls the deal a win for both countries.


TRUMP: We've been dealing for many years, I would say, with Guatemala and with other countries and we are now at a point where we are -- we just get along and they're doing what we've asked them to do and I think it's going to be a great thing for Guatemala. They don't want these problems, either. So we're able to get it done fairly quickly. This after many years. Mexico also is working along with us very nicely. I mean tremendously, actually. You will see a chart where the numbers are really through the floor, I should say, because they are going down.


HOWELL: The deal seems to be based on the safe third country agreement. But critics say Guatemala is one of the most dangerous countries in the world, that it's not a safe place for asylum seekers.

This, as the U.S. Supreme Court cleared the way for the Trump administration, at least temporarily, to use $2.5 billion of the Pentagon's money to build parts of the border wall. Our senior White House correspondent, Pamela Brown, has more on that story.


PAMELA BROWN, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: The president immediately hailed the decision by the Supreme Court that paves the way for Defense Department funds to be used for the wall.

The president tweeting shortly after the ruling, "Wow, big victory on the wall. The United States Supreme Court overturns lower court injunction allow southern border wall to proceed. Big win for border security and the rule of law."

This is certainly a significant Supreme Court ruling along ideological lines in the president's favor. It is not a permanent ruling. This can still play out in the lower courts. But certainly it hands the president a big win on the campaign trail because now he can tout to his supporters that he's following through on his 2016 campaign promise, that his wall is being built.

We should note that these funds that are being used will go also toward replacement fencing along with building new wall. All of this happened after the president directed funds from the Pentagon to be used for the wall after he didn't get what he wanted from Congress.

You'll recall that long government shutdown, 35 days. And after that the president ended it by directing the funds that he didn't get from Congress. Shortly after that, there were certain groups that challenged it in the courts and that is what led to this big support -- Supreme Court ruling.

A lower court actually agreed with those groups, saying that the president didn't have a right to divert funds, that Congress has the power of the purse. But the Supreme Court said that it disagreed, that these groups that brought the suit didn't have standing and that the government made a good case for that.

So again, this is a big win for President Trump and gives him a major talking point, at least for now, on the campaign trail -- Pamela Brown, CNN, the White House.

(END VIDEOTAPE) HOWELL: Pamela, thank you.

As the president chalks up wins on immigration, the calls for impeachment are getting louder. The House Judiciary Committee has filed a suit to get secret grand jury information from the Russia investigation. Our Manu Raju has this report from Capitol Hill.


MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): A major step forward for House Democrats. As they --


RAJU (voice-over): -- decide whether to impeach President Donald Trump.

In a new lawsuit, the House Judiciary Committee told a federal judge today, it needs secret grand jury information gathered by Robert Mueller because articles of impeachment are under consideration as part of its investigation. Although no file determination has been made.

After weeks of intense Democratic debate about next steps to fight the president, today Chairman Jerry Nadler and members of his committee said their probe is essentially the same as a formal impeachment inquiry.

RAJU (on camera): So you're saying there is no difference between what you are doing now and an impeachment inquiry, correct?

REP. JERRY NADLER (D-NY), JUDICIARY CHAIRMAN: In effect. This is an impeachment investigation.

REP. VERONICA ESCOBAR (D-TX), JUDICIARY COMMITTEE: We're now crossing a threshold with the filing --

RAJU (voice-over): Nadler told reporters the only difference is that his committee investigation is broader than an impeachment inquiry. But acknowledged the end result could be the same.

NADLER: We are going to see what remedies we could recommend including the possibility of articles of impeachment. We are not limited to that. But it's very much a possibility as a result of what we're doing.

RAJU: The development comes amid a growing Democratic divide over how to move forward in the aftermath of Mueller's appearance before the House in which he testified about alleged crimes committed by the president but failed to deliver the commanding performance that many Democrats were hoping for. After the hearing, Speaker Nancy Pelosi renewed her push to fight the White House in court. But in what allies see as a shift, she is sounding open to the possibility of impeachment.

RAJU (on camera): Some of your Democratic colleagues believe you're simply trying to run out the clock on impeachment. Are you trying to run out the clock?

NANCY PELOSI (D-CA), HOUSE SPEAKER: No, I'm not trying to run out the clock. Let's get sophisticated about this, OK. OK.

RAJU: But how long do you think the court fights will take?

PELOSI: We will proceed when we have what we need to proceed. Not one day sooner.

Their advocacy for impeachment only gives me leverage, so I'm willing to take whatever heat there is there to say when - the decision will be made in a timely fashion. This isn't endless.

RAJU (voice-over): Democrats have voiced concerns that the window is closing on launching an impeachment proceeding.

REP. LLOYD DOGGETT (D), TEXAS: I would certainly like to see us move more expeditiously.

RAJU: The House Judiciary Committee says today it also may file a lawsuit as soon as next week to try and force former White House Counsel Don McGahn to cooperate with its probe into potential obstruction of justice. After President Trump instructed McGahn not to comply with the subpoena.

For weeks, sources say Nadler has privately argued to Pelosi their hand in court would be strengthened if they launched a formal impeachment probe. But publicly he stood by her side.

RAJU (on camera): Could there be a point, though, Mr. Chairman, where you break from the speaker and you announce publicly your support for impeachment?

NADLER: We may decide to recommend articles of impeachment at some point. We may not. That remains to be seen. And there is no point in speculating on whether the Speaker or anybody else will agree with our decision at that point.

RAJU: One thing the Speaker has not been saying in recent days is that it's essentially fruitless for the Democratic White House to move forward with impeachment proceedings because if they were to approve it, it would die in the Republican led Senate.

She had actually been saying that for weeks but essentially has dropped that message in the last several days. Also I am told that new language in the lawsuit says the House Judiciary Committee is considering moving forward with articles of impeachment. I'm told the Speaker signed off on that language -- Manu Raju, CNN, Capitol Hill.


HOWELL: Here to put it into focus, we have Kate Andrews, Kate, an associate director at the Institute of Economic Affairs and political columnist with "City A.M." from our London bureau.

KATE ANDREWS, INSTITUTE OF ECONOMIC AFFAIRS: Good to see you, George. HOWELL: It's being called an impeachment investigation instead of an

impeachment inquiry. There is an effort to get secret information from the Mueller report to help Democrats decide whether to impeach the president.

Is the window closing for Democrats to do this?

ANDREWS: Well, naturally, it's closing, as, you know, the election is upon us now. 2020 is in focus. The president could be removed through impeachment processes and could be removed by a Democrat who beats him.

When we watched special counsel Mueller address Congress, you watched him walk in tightrope of not wanting to endorse any politics on the Left and the Right. Both sides was said to be disappointed. Trump was not exonerated nor was he was said to be guilty of a crime and he couldn't say that Trump was guilty of a crime.


ANDREWS: -- and saying they are trying to take impeachment into their own hands. It can be a big of a dangerous game, especially going into the election, where the messaging of simply being anti-Trump and not necessarily offering the country more, may not resonate well with voters.

HOWELL: Democrats want to pursue the path of impeachment there. Some who worry this could energize the president's base ahead of the 2020 election, there's those that are concerned it could force the candidates to talk mainly about impeachment. Not talking about the tabletop issues so important in this election.

Could this hurt or help the Democrats come the election?

ANDREWS: I suspect it's a losing hand. If Mueller had found a smoking gun and there were a good reason to believe that Trump was guilty of obstruction of justice or a crime, it would have been laid out in that massive report.

And the fact they don't have that evidence and they are trying to scrape the bottom of the barrel to find some more, suggests they're not going to have the talking points they need to run a primary or general election on the idea that Trump has committed a crime.

On the other side, even though Trump hasn't been exonerated per se, the Republicans can say, where is the evidence?

There's no reason to believe that politically-motivated Democrats will have the evidence. So if they're not focused on serious domestic issues like tax and health care and immigration and they simply focus on Trump, without having that evidence, I think they will have a difficult time.

HOWELL: Let's talk about immigration. The president claiming victory on two different fronts. First, regarding the wall he wants to build on the U.S.-Mexico border, the wall he said that Mexico will pay for. Instead, Defense Department dollars will be paying for that as the Supreme Court has given the nod for that money to be used for construction.

How does that play for the president as he goes to the campaign trail?

ANDREWS: The Supreme Court ruled on a very technical point. They haven't actually said that Trump is right in law to divert the funds. They said they would grant him the use of those funds temporarily while lower courts debate that. So it's quite technical. The Supreme Court hasn't, in principle, ruled in Trump's favor.

But in practice, this is a good talking point for the president, as you mentioned. One of his major campaign pledges was to build a border wall. He hasn't been successful in doing so yet but now he can go on the campaign trail and say, it's coming and I do have the funds to make it happen.

HOWELL: Another thing the president can talk about on the campaign trail, the agreement he made with Guatemala for migrants to pass through that country to seek asylum first, meaning migrants who seek asylum in the U.S. will be returned for Guatemala, a country that critics say is not safe.

What are your thoughts about the agreement that was reached?

ANDREWS: I really have mixed feelings. It is the case that the U.S. is a much safer destination for asylum seekers and those who have experienced torture than Guatemala. But if we look across to the Syrian crisis and the migrants that have come into Europe, there's been an issue of so many migrants going to Germany and other countries not doing their bit to take in the appropriate number of asylum seekers and migrants.

So I'm not totally opposed in principle to the U.S. working with other countries to say we need to have a rational way to divvy up migrants and asylum speakers. But of course, if you are an asylum seekers being put in Guatemala is different than being put in the USA. So it's a sensitive topic. Fine in principle for the U.S. working with other countries. You can't simply put all of the burden on other countries.

HOWELL: We appreciate your time today. Thank you.

ANDREWS: Thank you.

HOWELL: In Hong Kong, protesters are on the streets for an eighth straight week. This time, they're standing up against the violent armed mobs that attacked them last week. We have a live report from Hong Kong ahead.

Plus, extreme temperatures are melting much of Europe. It's so hot the heat wave could possibly bake the Arctic. Derek Van Dam is on deck as CNN pushes ahead.





HOWELL: Looking at Hong Kong this hour, 5:16 on the U.S. East Coast and 5:16 pm there in Hong Kong. Thousands of protesters on the streets. They're in a small town on the border with Mainland China, making their voices heard after violence last Sunday.

That's when mobs attacked protesters with iron bars and bamboo sticks; at least 45 people were hurt and about a dozen people were arrested.

We see police moving in as we're looking at this live image in Hong Kong, the camera trained on the police officers as they move toward protesters. Kristie Lu Stout is with us.

Kristie, we're seeing the police standing on one side of that intersection. Protesters with umbrellas on the other.

What more can you tell us?

KRISTIE LU STOUT, CNN ANCHOR: It's a very fluid situation here. All afternoon we've been watching what we estimate to be tens of thousands of protesters in this unlawful assembly, coming through Castle Peak Road in the last 30 minutes or so. We've seen what previously was a constant flow of protesters: stop, retreat, move back.

And you can see them, wearing the black T-shirts and yellow hardhats, stopping, checking their phones. (AUDIO GAP) some sort of strategy. This all taking place as the riot police are in the vicinity. I do not see the riot police in the position where I am (INAUDIBLE) protesters are aware of that as well.

They were not granted permission to be here. There's no official numbers because there's no official organizer of the protest.


HOWELL: Kristie, I apologize for interrupting; I want to make sure the viewers see what's happening there. A moment ago, what appeared to be tear gas, being used by police officers there.

Kristie, police moving toward the protesters, who are pushing back.

STOUT: I do not see where the tear gas is being deployed from my vantage point but I can describe the protesters who remain are the more hardcore protesters. The younger protesters who are wearing the hardhats, they have the equipment with them. They have been under the cover of the umbrellas, trying to move around barricades.

They are using encrypted messaging apps like Telegram to be able to communicate with each other about what is going on. They're aware of what's happening in the areas outside of this area here.

But it's a very fluid situation. I'm not seeing where the tear gas is being deployed.


STOUT: But seeing a number of black-shirt-wearing protesters, with the yellow hardhats. They're here despite that the police did not grant them permission to be here. They are risking arrest. This is an unlawful assembly.

And when you talk to the protesters, they are here for a number of reasons. What began was a single issue peaceful march about an extradition bill. As more of them became involved, it became about so much more.

They're angry about violence against passersby and journalists last week. They're angry about what they see as a reluctant police response. They're angry at the government. They're angry at Carrie Lam because the extradition bill has not been fully withdrawn. And many of them want universal suffrage, a core demand of the 2014 Umbrella movement as well.

So this protest, this is the eighth consecutive weekend of protests, this summer in Hong Kong has evolved to a much greater crusade against the political situations and the police. We'll continue to monitor the situation.

But right now, it's fluid. The protesters have stopped their march from the playground. They are talking to each other. They are figuring out what is going to happen next.

HOWELL: Kristie Lu Stout, stand by with us. I want to reset and show our viewers what we're seeing. Police officers in riot gear, that officer holding a weapon, pointed toward the protesters. Just a moment ago, when we were looking down that avenue at the protesters, we saw a couple of American flags there. Protesters with umbrellas there, many prepared for whatever goes down there.

Police, a few moments ago, used tear gas, pushing the protesters back. Our Kristie Lu Stout is monitoring all this. Kristie, we'll stay in touch with you as you continue to give us updates about what is a developing situation on the streets of Hong Kong.

Switching to the record-breaking heat across Europe. Many records were shattered. And now, the heat shifts to the north.



HOWELL: Still ahead, Democrats hoping to become the next U.S. president have a crucial week ahead. We look at how they're doing in the days leading up to this week's debates, seen only here on CNN. Stay tuned for that.

Plus, two close allies, both born in New York, mind you, look ahead to a post-Brexit relationship. The latest from London is ahead as CNN continues. (MUSIC PLAYING)



HOWELL: Welcome back to our viewers here in the United States and around the world. You're watching CNN NEWSROOM, live from Atlanta. I'm George Howell, with the headlines we're following for you.



HOWELL: Impeachment will likely come up during this week's Democratic debates. The candidates are to hit the stage on Tuesday and Wednesday. Until then, they're on the campaign trail, rolling out new proposals and hoping to replace Donald Trump. Kyung Lah reports.


SEN. KAMALA HARRIS (D-CA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: He tells them to go back to where they came from, what do we say?

We're not going back. We're not going back. And, in fact, I will tell you all where we're going. We're going to the White House.

KYUNG LAH, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Kamala Harris on the attack against President Trump. Just days before the second Democratic debate, she did not swipe at Joe Biden or mention their much anticipated rematch on the stage.

Asked if she will be polite at that face-off, Harris told one reporter today, "I was raised to be polite,' after Biden said this about his approach at the first debate.

JOSEPH BIDEN (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I was probably overly polite.

LAH: Ahead of next week's debate, Biden has previewed a more aggressive posture against Harris and Cory Booker, which a senior campaign official says is being driven by the former vice president.

SEN. CORY BOOKER (D-NJ), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I think beating Donald Trump is a floor. It is not the ceiling.

LAH: Biden is still holding on to his front-runner status in a new national FOX News poll, with Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren and Harris all in double digits. In the run-up to the debate, the top candidates are jockeying with competing policy rollouts. Harris, before a primarily black audience of the National Urban League...

HARRIS: I will make a $60 billion investment in STEM education at HBCUs and other minority-serving institutions.

LAH: -- that's aimed at closing the racial wealth gap, investing in historically black colleges and universities and an additional $12 billion to support black entrepreneurship.

Before the same audience, Pete Buttigieg also attacked Trump.

PETE BUTTIGIEG (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: My generation saw this country elect its first black president and then turn around and elect a racist to the White House. And we ought to call that what it is.

LAH: And today rolled out a new economic policy to help get economy workers unionized. Buttigieg is targeting big tech for outsourcing their employees and their benefits.

Elizabeth Warren announced she crossed a threshold, receiving more than 1 million donations so far this election. Bernie Sanders previously crossed 1 million donations. Both have rejected high- dollar fundraisers.

Elizabeth Warren is campaigning in New Hampshire this weekend. Bernie Sanders will be holding a fundraiser in Detroit. Pete Buttigieg, Cory Booker, still out on the trail this weekend but Joe Biden, Kamala Harris, dialing back their public appearances as they get closer to the debate -- Kyung Lah, CNN, Indianapolis.


HOWELL: Kyung, thanks.

As for the debates, don't forget. They will be live on CNN, Tuesday and Wednesday of next week. Coverage starts at 8:00 pm Eastern time. And you can see the encore presentation in London at 7:00 am in London the following day, only here on CNN.

The new British prime minister spoke by phone to Donald Trump on Friday. Downing Street says they are working out a free trade deal after Britain leaves the European Union. This is believed to be the first time the two have spoken since Mr. Johnson moved into Number 10.


TRUMP: A good guy. He's a friend of mine. I think we'll have a great relationship. Boris will be a great prime minister. He has what it takes. The U.K. needed him for a long time.


HOWELL: Salma Abdelaziz live this hour. Tell us more about the conversation the two men had, who have a relationship and are seemingly aligned on many issues.

SALMA ABDELAZIZ, CNN PRODUCER: That's right, George. After that call, Trump said he's spoken about a very substantial trade agreement with the U.K. He talked about increasing trade between the two countries three, four, even five times. Unclear where he got those figures from.

And he said the U.K.'s membership in the E.U. had actually impeded trade between the two nations. This is exactly what Boris Johnson wants to hear as he turns away from Europe and faces the possibility of relationships with other countries.


ABDELAZIZ: But the U.K. cannot negotiate trade agreements with other countries until it leaves the E.U. So his first deadline is the October 31st date. That's when the U.K. will officially leave the E.U.

It's difficult to imagine how is going to overcome this deadlock. He talked about reopening negotiations with the E.U. and also the removal of the backstop, the deal with the Irish border, as a precondition to the talks, something E.U. leadership has already said no to.

He's talked about crashing out, a so-called no-deal Brexit. But Parliament seemed to indicate that would be turned down by Parliament. So Boris Johnson is very much looking across the pond, trying to tout that relationship but it's not going to save him from the crisis here at home.

HOWELL: Salma, we'll follow it with you. Thank you.

In Syria, the civilian death toll is rising. And the U.N. is telling the world to pay attention. Pay attention to what's happening right there.




HOWELL: Welcome back to CNN NEWSROOM. The U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights is urging the world not to turn a blind eye to what's happening in Syria, the Syrian civil war. It's still happening. It comes as the civilian death toll there is on the rise. The U.N. says it's a direct result of a government offensive in Western Syria.


RUBERT COLVILLE, U.N. HUMAN RIGHTS COMMISSION: Despite repeated calls by the United Nations to respect the principle for caution and distinction in the conduct of hostilities, this latest --


COLVILLE: -- relentless campaign of airstrikes by the government and its allies has continued to hit medical facilities, schools and other civilian infrastructure such as markets and bakeries.

These are civilian objects. And it seems highly unlikely, given the persistent pattern of such attacks, that they're all being hit by accident. Intentional attacks against civilians are war crimes. And those who have ordered them or carried them out are criminally responsible for their actions.

(END VIDEO CLIP) HOWELL: The number of children killed in Idlib province in the past four weeks alone has surpassed the total from 2018. The charity Save the Children says at least 33 children have been killed in the last month.

And two young sisters died after an airstrike hit their building. You see this image here, the aftermath of that attack. It was captured, a very powerful image, showing one of the girls, a 5-year-old girl, trying to save her baby sister, trying to save her baby sister from falling.

The baby survived and the 5-year old did not.

The civil war has also claimed those who are documenting it. Among them a 23-year-old photographer known for capturing the tragedy of this war. CNN's Jomana Karadsheh has the story and a warning, the images are graphic.


JOMANA KARADSHEH, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Even when the world almost stopped paying attention, Anas Diab did not stop taking pictures, he wanted the world to see the living hell that his country had become.

Diab's photographs brought us the worst of Syria today. like this heartbreaking image earlier this year of 6 year-old Hasna Patrun (ph), the lifeless hand under her knee was that of her 3 year-old sister. Her 1 year-old brother was also killed in that airstrike.

In the midst of tragedy, he never failed to also capture moments of innocence, the humanity that at times outlived the horrors of war, he was witness to some of the darkest atrocities of our time, the April 2017 chemical attack on his town of Khan Shaykhun.

Diab, a media activist and a member of the rescue group the White Helmets, was injured three times in recent years but that didn't stop the 23 year-old. He spent the past week documenting the brutal bombardment of Khan Shaykhun by the Syrian regime and its ally, Russia. And it cost him his life.

Diab was killed in an airstrike on Sunday, colleagues and friends gathered to pay their final respects and the White Helmets mourned, in a statement saying, quote, "Anas will always be remembered as the one who chose to stay behind the scenes and fight with his camera."

Thus the 24 hours after his death, there were more bodies to bury, more victims to mourn, lives lost in one of the bloodiest attacks in months on what's left of rebel-held Syria. That here has become normal, the everyday, that is what Anas Diab wanted the world to see, even as it turned the other way.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This is the result of your apathy. This is the United States' apathy toward the Syria situation. We are getting shelled every day. We are getting killed every day. Please, Mr. Trump, please, please stop this. KARADSHEH (voice-over): Jomana Karadsheh, CNN, Istanbul.


HOWELL: Joelle Bassoul is joining from Beirut. She is a spokeswoman for Save the Children Middle East.

Thank you for being with us.


HOWELL: Let's again show the image. Just want people to see this again. Show it full to understand what is happening. Again, you see the children, these young girls; both died as a result of their injuries.

Tell us more about the situation, what's happening there in and around Idlib province.

BASSOUL: The situation is simply horrific. Since the end in April, there's been an increase in violence and airstrikes and shelling. The children are paying the price for this violence.

This photo that has gone around the world now is not just a photo of two small girls. They have identities and names. One was 5 years old, the other sister was 3. They are both dead and their youngest sibling survived. So far, they've lost children, he lost his wife and it's just senseless brutality, day in and day out in Idlib since the end of April.

HOWELL: Again, let's look at that image. It is important to see this. We understand that the baby died in that image. The baby survived. But that's the problem. These attacks --


HOWELL: -- continue to happen. And this is one stark example of the problem here. I want you to take a look at the numbers here, reported by your organization. The violence by the numbers, since the end of April of this year, has now resulted in the deaths of at least 400 people.

That includes 90 children, compared to 31 children killed in 2018, and 440,000 people displaced. Save the Children and Hurras Network confirmed that at least 33 children have been killed since June 24. Those numbers give an indication and the image does, as well, of how bad things are.

BASSOUL: Yes. These are conservative numbers also because since we got them, more children have died, including the two sisters in the photo. Our numbers are conservative because Hurras Network, our partner on the ground documents every death. It doesn't mean that it will not increase.

And it's just a comparison tool. More children have been killed in four weeks than the whole year. And numbers are just hiding stories of families torn apart. We heard that four children who are playing together in one neighborhood were killed. And the families could not get the body parts because they were intermingled.

So it's horror stories every day from Syria. And civilians are paying the price. There's no safe area in Syria anymore, in Idlib for civilians.

HOWELL: The U.S. president Trump, once said he should be given credit for asking Russia to protect Idlib. But Russian and Syrian forces are renewing attacks on rebels, refugees with nowhere to go at this point.

BASSOUL: Yes. There's a total disregard for warring parties to international humanitarian laws and international human rights laws. And the protection of civilians is the last thing on their minds.

People are dying. But people are also being displaced, as you have mentioned. Some families have been displaced up to 10 times. They're living in open fields, under trees. It's very hard in Idlib. There's a lack of proper food, water, sanitation.

So also there's an increase of health issues and diseases. So children are victims across the board. They're not just dying. They are also living in very precarious conditions. If this is supposed to be Syria's future generation, that will hopefully will rebuild Syria one day, you can imagine the mental impact of this war on those children.

HOWELL: The State Department condemned the attacks, calling for an immediate cease-fire.

But look, given the position of the United States, pulling the greater majority of its troops out of Syria, does the U.S. have leverage to demand anything in Syria?

BASSOUL: I cannot comment on the position of the U.S. government. What is clear in Syria now is there is a total disregard for civilian lives. And there's a total indifference from the international community.

The U.N. Security Council is one place where a political solution can be reached and a decision to at least reach a cease-fire currently in Idlib can happen. But there's no action whatsoever at this level. So warring parties are continuing with the fighting on the ground and in the air, with a total indifference from the international community. And civilians are paying the price.

HOWELL: Joelle Bassoul, we appreciate your time today. Thank you.

BASSOUL: Thank you.

HOWELL: We'll be right back after this.






HOWELL: The World Health Organization has released a new report on what it's calling the growing tobacco epidemic. It says while governments have adopted policies to help reduce tobacco use, many countries are still not doing enough to help people quit tobacco.

The organization's director general says governments should offer more services, like national toll-free quit lines and nicotine replacement therapy to support people who want to stop using tobacco.

In the meantime, the United States is finding out more about how far e-cigarette companies will go to reach new customers. A congressional investigation into the vaping manufacturer, JUUL, is revealing some shocking facts about what it did to get teenagers' attention. Dr. Sanjay Gupta has this story.


MEREDITH BERKMAN, CO-FOUNDER, PARENTS AGAINST VAPING E-CIGARETTES: We face an entire generation of kids addicted to nicotine, who are human guinea pigs for the JUUL experiment overall.

REP. AYANNA PRESSLEY (D-MA): Many of JUUL's tactics seem to be right out of the Big Tobacco playbook.

JAMES MONSEES, CO-FOUNDER AND CHIEF PRODUCT OFFICER, JUUL LABS: We never wanted any non-nicotine user -- and certainly nobody underage -- to ever use JUUL products.

REP. RAJA KRISHNAMOORTHI (D-IL): JUUL hasn't provided satisfactory -

SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): We've seen passionate exchanges between tobacco opponents, JUUL executives and members of Congress at a two-day congressional hearing on JUUL's role in the youth vaping epidemic.

But perhaps the most surprising exchange came from high schoolers, who revealed that JUUL had sent a representative to their classroom last year and that teachers were asked to leave the room.

KRISHNAMOORTHI: Did the presenter call JUUL, quote-unquote, "totally safe" more than once?


KRISHNAMOORTHI: What impact did those, quote-unquote, "totally safe" comments have on your classmates, some of whom may have already started vaping?

MINTZ: For my classmates who were already vaping, it was a sigh of relief because now they were able to vape without any concern. GUPTA (voice-over): We asked JUUL about this. And they said

presentations to students were made as part of a short-lived educational and youth prevention program, which was ended in September 2018. The company says its purpose, which was to educate youth on the dangers of nicotine addiction, was clearly misconstrued.

The company also said it has taken actions to prevent youth vaping, like scaling back its social media accounts, platforms that critics say had particular appeal among teenagers. But according to one expert who testified, that was too little, too late.

ROBERT JACKLER, STANFORD RESEARCH INTO THE IMPACT OF TOBACCO ADVERTISING: You would have thought that hashtag posting would decline. But in fact, it surged.

GUPTA (voice-over): Surged in part because the hashtag --


GUPTA (voice-over): -- itself gained a kind of social currency, even after the brand had largely exited social media. Jackler and others say this video should scare anyone: normalizing the use of these devices, even in a young toddler.

JACKLER: We've seen lots of outrageous postings on #JUUL. It's remarkable, the lack of boundaries many posters have.

GUPTA (voice-over): For its part, JUUL says it agrees. These posts by other users are a serious problem and it's gotten more than 30,000 of them taken down. But with more than half a million posts still tagged on Instagram alone, Jackler's new research shows that still hasn't stopped JUUL's online popularity -- Dr. Sanjay Gupta, CNN, reporting.


HOWELL: We want to show you dramatic video out of Southern California of the U.S. Coast Guard closing in on drug smugglers. Take a look.


HOWELL (voice-over): This was just one of their recent busts. A high-speed boat careening across the waves near San Diego with federal agents in hot pursuit. Look carefully there. You'll see the smugglers toss bales of cocaine overboard, as they try to avoid being captured.

In the end, they were caught, along with more than a ton of drugs. In recent weeks, the U.S. Coast Guard reports seizing about 13 tons of cocaine, with a street value of $350 million.


HOWELL: Thanks for being with us for CNN NEWSROOM. I'm George Howell. For viewers in the United States, "NEW DAY" is next. For other viewers, the news continues after this. [06:00:00]