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Well, he denied that he had anything to do with the attack. He denied that he knew, in fact, that there was a chemical attack, notwithstanding what has been said, and notwithstanding the videotape. He said there’s not evidence yet to make a conclusive judgment.
Charlie Rose, CBS News
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Airdate: September 8, 2013
A Block — Charlie Rose previews his interview with Syrian President Bashar Assad
SCHIEFFER: Today on Face the Nation, breaking news — CBS News man Charlie Rose has just interviewed Syrian President Bashar al- Assad. We’ll have a report. And we’ll get reaction from White House chief of staff Dennis McDonough only on Face the Nation.
ANNOUNCER: From CBS News in Washington, Face the Nation with Bob Schieffer.
SCHIEFFER: And good morning, again, Charlie Rose, as we just reported, has interviewed Bashar al-Assad in Syria. He is in Beirut this morning now. Well, Charlie let’s get right to it, what did he tell you?
CHARLIE ROSE, CBS NEWS: Well, he denied that he had anything to do with the attack. He denied that he knew, in fact, that there was a chemical attack, notwithstanding what has been said, and notwithstanding the videotape. He said there’s not evidence yet to make a conclusive judgment. He would not say, even though I read him the lead paragraph of The New York Times today, and the story about their chemical weapons supply. And he said I can’t confirm or deny that we have chemical weapons. He did, however, say that in fact if we do have them — and I’m not going to say yes or no — they’re in centralized control, so no one else has access to them. He suggested, as he has before, that perhaps the rebels had something to do with it. He made some references to Aleppo. The most important thing as he basically says is that there has no evidence that I used chemical weapons against my own people. There is no evidence of that. And if, in fact the evidence has evidence, then they should show that evidence and make their case. I then obviously repeated the fact that Secretary Kerry is in the process of making the case. And that, in fact, that information is being shown to members of congress, as they begin to come back to Washington and consider an authorization for the president to make a military strike. He said that he did not necessarily know whether or not there was going to be a strike, obviously. That they were prepared as they could be for a strike. He said there would be — suggested there would be, among people that are aligned with him, some kind of retaliation if a strike was made, that that would be what would be — but he would not talk about any kind of the nature of the response. He had a message to the American people that it had not been a good experience for them to get involved in the Middle East in wars and conflict in the Middle East, that the result had not been good, and that they should not get involved, and that they should communicate through their congress and through their leadership in Washington not to authorize a strike.
SCHIEFFER: Well Charlie, did he seem resigned to the fact that the United States is probably going to attack? Or did he predict that congress wouldn’t approve this? Did you get any kind of sense of what he thinks is going to happen next?
ROSE: Bob, that was the very first question I asked: do you expect an attack? He said, I don’t know. He said we’re prepared as best we can. He did not say that he assumed that there would be an attack in Syria because of the chemical weapons. I also pursued the question of whether there was anything that he was prepared to do to stop the attack, for example, to give up chemical weapons, if that would stop the attack. I also raised the question with him that did he fear that if there was an attack it would degrade his own military and therefore make it more likely that it might tip the balance. He’s very, very concerned about that as an issue. He talked about his father, and the lessons he had learned from his father, that war was ruthless, and that (inaudible) his father went all out to destroy, at that time, the Muslim Brotherhood. So he was calm. He knew the situation he was in. In fact, Damascus seemed relatively calm, the places that I was today. But there’s a clear sense they are closely watching what is happening in Washington. I think the reason they did this interview today — we’ve been trying for a long time, but did it today because they’re watching what happens in Washington.
SCHIEFFER: The interview will air in its entirety Monday night on the Charlie Rose Show on PBS. Excerpts of the interview will air for the first time on CBS this morning tomorrow with more on subsequent CBS News broadcast. Back here in Washington, we turn now to the White House chief of staff Denis McDonough. I’ll just start, what is your reaction to what you just heard?
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