This is a rush transcript from "The Story," February 28, 2018. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.
MARTHA MACCALLUM, FOX NEWS CHANNEL HOST: Good evening, Bret, thank you.
Breaking tonight, new information about the departure of Hope Hicks and what it may signal about the power struggle within the White House. Big questions about why the announcement came today, just one day after she testified for nine hours before the House Intel Committee on the Russia investigation. The 29-year-old was perhaps the most important person on the campaign and in the White House when it came to access to the president. She was loyal, professional, and basically understood the president like a family member. David Bossie, Trump's 2016 Deputy Campaign Manager, joins me in just a moment with his thoughts on this very surprising news today. But we begin with Chief National Correspondent Ed Henry, live at the White House with all of the breaking news tonight. Good evening, Ed.
ED HENRY, FOX NEWS CHANNEL CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Good to see you, Martha. I mean, the day began around here with a little bit of chaos about the president again beating up on the man that he has called his beleaguered attorney general. That overshadowed, just a few hours later, by this abrupt and unexpected exit by the Communications Director Hope Hicks. As you mentioned, she's only 29, and yet had become very effective, influential in the West Wing. The president's longest serving aide who got high marks for helping shepherd the tax cut messaging, which is why her exit statement focuses on how, in her words, there are no words to adequately express her gratitude to the president.
The president glowing in his statement praising her three years at his side dating back to the campaign, 'she as thought smart and thoughtful as they come, a truly great person. I will miss having her by my side. But when she approached about pursuing other opportunities, I totally understood.
I'm sure we will work together again in the future.' That from the president. But remember, Hicks received negative publicity when her boyfriend at the time White House aide, Rob Porter, left after accusations he had abused two ex-wives.
Then yesterday, Hicks spent several hours testifying before the House Intelligence Committee about Russia, and took heat today after it was revealed that among other things, she told lawmakers she told little white lies for the president. Nonetheless, top advisors tell me this abrupt exit has nothing to do with yesterday's testimony and that she had recently signaled she'd be leaving soon. Instead, senior advisors to the president tell me the real story here is Chief of Staff John Kelly trying to consolidate power, even though Kelly did put out a statement declaring Hicks 'has served her country with great distinction'.
Remember, this comes amid indications Kelly may also be trying to ease out senior advisor, the presidential son in law, Jared Kushner. After a series of leaks around here, about his security clearance troubles. In fact, Bloomberg has a breaking story tonight that more than 30 White House staffers have been stripped of their top-secret clearance. Meanwhile, more drama as we noted, surrounding Jeff Sessions. Yesterday, he said, he's going to have the inspector general at Justice, probe allegations that Obama officials improperly approved surveillance of a former Trump advisor.
Well, the president tweeted today: 'Why is A.G. Sessions asking the inspector general to investigate potentially massive FISA abuse? Will take forever, has no prosecutorial power, and already late with reports on Comey, et cetera? Isn't the I.G. an Obama guy? Why not use Justice Department lawyers? Disgraceful.' Well, that Inspector General Michael Horowitz was nominated to this post by Barack Obama, but he was appointed to a previous federal post by a Republican president and our own Brit Hume tweeted today, 'This is Trump at his worst. He's asking that the DOJ investigate itself. The inspector general, who has his own staff of lawyers and investigators, at least enjoys a measure of independence from the department. Trump still wants the A.G. to act as his political goalie.'
Now, Sessions pushed back today with the statement of his own saying that he did the right thing yesterday and will continue to follow both the law and the constitution. We should note, the president's anger at Sessions previously has been about not being tough enough about investigating Hillary Clinton. Well, today, NBC News reported that some witnesses are being asked by Special Counsel Robert Mueller about whether the president as Candidate Trump, knew in advance about the hacks of those Democratic emails. So, a lot going on tonight, Martha.
MACCALLUM: So, that's all that happened today. Very quiet day in the White House. You know, I mean, obviously, Ed, we hear a lot about the inner workings of who is sort of trying to consolidate power inside the White House. And every time one of these messages come out, you wonder if it's coming from the other side trying to make the other side look bad.
What more do we know about that tonight?
HENRY: Well, remember the context. A couple weeks ago, it was chief of staff John Kelly who was in deep trouble over his mishandling -- but mishandling, really, of the Rob Porter story, and the shifting statements and all of that. It now looks like he's on the rise again. Remember, this happened in the context of Josh Raffel, who had been a spokesman for Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump announced yesterday abruptly he's leaving. And he has got other opportunities in the private sector that happens in Democratic and Republican White Houses. Hope Hicks, we're told, had signaled in recent weeks she wanted to leave as well. But it's important to note that I'm hearing that General Kelly has want some of these people pushed aside. And he wants to pick up his own power, number one. And number two, he's been saying this for a long time in private that family members shouldn't be around here, and it's been more difficult for the White House. Hope Hicks, remember, has basically, even though she's not family is considered family.
MACCALLUM: Yes, practically family. There are reports that the staff is demoralized. Obviously, a lot of them are very close to Hope Hicks. She has a great reputation. She's very well-liked among most people who've worked with her.
HENRY: You know what, some of the senior advisors I talked to had say what they're frustrated about is, yes, she's somebody who has been popular around here. But also, beyond Hope Hicks, you had a president today who was talking for a long period of time about not just gun control, but he's reframing this issue as school safety. And what is he doing as a Republican, it's not getting noticed a lot by the mainstream media. But he's kind of taking on the NRA on background checks and other things, saying I'm not scared of the NRA. I had them in here at the White House for lunch a few days ago and we're going to work out a deal -- back to the art of the deal. Everyone said, he couldn't get a tax cut. He got a tax cut. Now, he's saying he's going to get something on background checks.
If he's able to do that, that's going to be a big development around here.
But my point is, it's being completely overshadowed by all of these other issues.
MACCALLUM: Absolutely. Yes, the communications message of that meeting got stepped on by this news, coming out of the White House right after that. Ed, thank you very much.
HENRY: Good to see you, Martha.
MACCALLUM: So, joining me now, David Bossie, worked with Hope Hicks as the Deputy Campaign Manager when he was with the 2016 Campaign for President Trump; he's a Fox News Contributor. David, good evening, good to see you.
DAVID BOSSIE, FOX NEWS CONTRIBUTOR AND FORMER DEPUTY CAMPAIGN MANAGER FOR THE TRUMP CAMPAIGN: Thanks for having me.
MACCALLUM: You were shocked by this news, you say.
BOSSIE: You know what, I was. You know, I know that Hope has been looking for -- you know, looking to do other things for quite some time now. But it's always a surprise when it actually happens for folks that are close to her.
MACCALLUM: So, what do you make of this John Kelly information that perhaps he is pushing back against some members of the team and wants to consolidate power? Do you think that's true?
BOSSIE: You know, look. I think these -- Hope Hicks is one of the most important members of that senior staff. She is, as you were just saying a moment ago, she is like family to this president. And, you know, I don't really know anybody that is able to or should want to push her out. I think that those stories are just rubbish coming out of the White House, you know, or whatever those sources are. I think that that's not accurate.
I think that this -- that Hope Hicks is one of the most thoughtful people that I got to work with, and I enjoyed working with her on the campaign.
You know, I think she -- I hold her in the highest regard. She is somebody who is dedicated to this president and dedicated to her country. And those things, and I can just say she is -- has the ear of the president and I'm glad that she has had that ear for the last several years.
MACCALLUM: You know, a couple of people that I spoke to who were inside the House Intel Committee testimony yesterday said that there was absolutely no indication that this was coming, that there was nothing that happened during that meeting that would've prompted this resignation. Do you -- is that what you've heard, and do you agree with that?
BOSSIE: You know what, I only had heard that the interview was very normal matter of fact, and nothing of any interest. So, I would find it hard to believe that anything like this would've come up yesterday or anybody would've had any information about it. It's not something that would've been talked about during a committee questioning session.
MACCALLUM: You know, the white lies comment, you know, that she tells white lies occasionally for the president. The way that I'm hearing that was that it was a question that was posed for her: do you ever lie for the president? And that she and her attorneys stepped out for a moment and clarified perhaps what was the discussion about, you know, well, sometimes, you know this is happening or that's happening, and I might say, you know, we can't make it because of this reason. Do I need to say that? The suggestion was, you know, how much do I need to include here?
BOSSIE: Martha, that's incredibly appropriate.
MACCALLUM: And that she came back in and assured them it had nothing to do with Russia, but there was occasionally time during her job where she might have to say something that wasn't 100 percent true.
BOSSIE: Right. People shouldn't read in -- for her to stop and talk to her attorneys and make sure that she's not mis-answering a question, because she thinks it's about one thing and wants to make sure. Look, communications staff in this town, you know, have -- since the dawn of time, told white -- you know, little fibs to the media to get them off their back, and that is part and parcel of any comms director or for Member of Congress or anywhere else. And that's just to try to buy time whatever the issue is. Those are nothing burgers. To me, that's a red herring.
MACCALLUM: David, thanks. Good to see you tonight.
BOSSIE: Thanks, Martha.
MACCALLUM: So, here now with more, Karl Rove, very familiar with the inner workings of the White House, Former Senior Advisor to President George W.
Bush and a Fox News Contributor. Karl, good to see you tonight.
KARL ROVE, FOX NEWS CONTRIBUTOR AND FORMER SENIOR ADVISOR TO PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH: Good to see you, Martha.
MACCALLUM: You know, you've been listening to all of this, to Ed, to David. What are your thoughts on this whole thing?
ROVE: Well, mystified. Look, she is one of the closest people to the president. She obviously cares deeply about the president and is loyal to him. And she's in charge -- she played a big role in the communications in the White House. This was not good communications on behalf of the president or the White House. The president had a day full of other messages he wanted to get across, and she came out 24 hours after leaving what must've been exhaustive, I think, almost nine hours on Capitol Hill and announced that she's leaving.
So, we're all going to be speculating about why, and not paying attention to what the president was trying to draw attention to today by his round tables. And so, I'm a little mystified. I don't buy that this has something to do with General Kelly. I think it has everything to do with a 29-year-old who is in a high-pressure environment. You know, if you have gone to Capitol Hill and testified behind closed doors as I did after I left the White House, being interrogated by Adam Schiff for hours upon hours, upon hours. It was not a pleasant experience and couldn't have been pleasant for her, either.
MACCALLUM: I mean, that's an excellent point. And there's, you know, some indication that the pressures of all of it. Sometimes you look at these folks in these jobs, and you've been there, Karl, and you wonder how they last as long as they do all the way through that grueling campaign, and now into this period of almost no time for personal life or anything else.
ROVE: Average tenure of a senior White House aide is about 18 months. So, it's not unusual to be losing people. This administration has lost a lot more people a lot more quickly. The pace is extraordinary. But you're right, even on a good day in a good administration where people are not knifing each other in the back, it's a tough place to work. When I was there, I had hair and it wasn't gray. So --
MACCALLUM: I do think that your point about the timing is interesting though, because, you know, when you're engineering communications, and you've just had this very wide ranging and fascinating discussion about school safety. To have this drop right after that, does definitely step on that message. It could've come out. And if it's been planned for a while, it could've come out, you know, Friday afternoon when they're sort of in the clear.
MACCALLUM: So, it is interesting timing. What do you think about the Jeff Sessions tweet that the president sent out this morning?
ROVE: I was taken aback. First of all, calling your attorney general disgraceful is an invitation for him to leave the office. And if the president wants him to go, the best way to do it is to call Sessions into his office and say, Jeff, I think you need to go. To play this out in front of the American people this way is really harmful to the president and makes it difficult to recruit somebody else. And look, let's assume for a minute that Jeff Sessions said, OK, I get the message and go. Do you know who the first victim of this will be? Not Jeff Sessions. It will be President Trump himself.
Does the president really want to go through the difficult struggle now to find somebody of impeccable integrity to do that job and go through a three or four or five-month long confirmation battle where his nominee bleeds all over the floor as every Democrat, asks every ugly question and uses every moment they can to make this a big deal in the middle of the 2018 election.
So, first of all, I'm just taken aback by it. Second of all, the inspector general is the person that the president wants to have do this. He is insulated from the rest of the department, he has complete independence. And Michael Horowitz, both in the Bush Administration and in the Obama Administration, and this administration, has shown himself willing to take on the tough things. Remember, this is the guy who sends to Robert Mueller the e-mail traffic and text messages of Peter Strzok, and says this guy is doing bad things and Mueller fires him immediately. So, you want, if you're the president, any kind of investigation along these lines to be done by somebody who is independent. By saying is this guy an Obama guy? The president is saying I want you to have this investigated by a partisan and the Democrats would just simply dismiss that if that were to happen.
MACCALLUM: Yes. Great point. Karl, thank you. Great to see tonight.
ROVE: You bet. Thank you, Martha.
MACCALLUM: So, coming up next, we have this story for you as the Parkland survivors bravely return to the school today for the first time since the shooting two weeks ago. President Trump takes on the issues of gun control, standing up to the NRA, and a lot more.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. CHRIS MURPHY, D-CONN.: First, I think you underestimate the power of the gun lobby.
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Some of you people are petrified of the NRA. You can't be petrified. They want to do what's right.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MACCALLUM: Who better to talk to about this than NRA Spokesperson Dana Loesch? She joins me in a moment to respond, coming up next. Also, March madness, well, right around the corner, right? It's almost March.
Starting tomorrow. But one NBA super star says it is not all one shiny moment, folks.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
LEBRON JAMES, BASKETBALL PLAYER, NBA: The NCAA is corrupt. We know that. I'm sorry. It's going to make headlines, but it's corrupt.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: We have to do something about it. We now have to do some -- we have to act. We can't wait and play games, and nothing gets done.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MACCALLUM: Action is what the president says he wants to sees as Parkland students today went back to school. They began their day with fourth period classes exactly where they were when the shooting began two weeks ago. I can only imagine what it was like for these children today. In a moment, NRA Spokesperson Dana Loesch joins us with her reaction to the president's strong message today. But first, the substantive conversation on change that had members of both parties once again at the table in the White House, in a free ranging conversation discussing what the next moves needs to be. Trace Gallagher live in our West Coast Newsroom with more on that for us tonight. Hi, Trace.
TRACE GALLAGHER, FOX NEWS CHANNEL HOST: Hi, Martha, by beginning with fourth period not only would the student be exactly where they were, during the shooting, but more importantly, they'd be alongside the people they were with when the horror began. Overall, at Stoneman Douglas High, it was a day of hugs, tears, and gapping voids. Watch.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It was kind of hard for me because I lost someone like a sister to me. So, it was difficult because we went to school together and left together, like, every day. So, without her being there, it was really difficult.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
GALLAGHER: The teens came back to campus guarded by police and welcomed by everyone from teachers, to parents, to animals -- dogs, donkeys, even a horse that carried eagle pride. When the final bell rang, some students walked in groups. Others walked hand in hand. They say it's important for them to move forward as long as the country doesn't just move on. Listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: While Douglas has the media's attention, while we have the nation's attention. We're going to make the most of it, and we're not going to stop until we get what we want.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: -- until we get our change.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
GALLAGHER: Yes, and while change is often slow, this time it appears steady. Florida GOP lawmakers have now approved a bill that calls for putting 10 teachers trained to carry a gun in each and every Florida school. The measure, clearly will have significant opposition. And on the national level during a blunt and often surprising back and forth between the president and a bipartisan group of lawmakers, Mr. Trump appeared to embrace comprehensive gun legislation that would expand background checks, raise the age limit to buy guns, and keep weapons away from the mentally ill. Here is the president talking about the NRA. Watch this back and forth.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: These are great people. These are great patriots. They love our country. But that doesn't mean we have to agree on everything. It doesn't make sense that I have to wait until I'm 21 to get a handgun but can I get this weapon at 18. I don't know. So, I'm just curious as to what you did in your bill.
SEN. PAT TOOMEY, R—PENNSYLVANIA: We didn't address it, Mr. President. Look, I think we.
TRUMP: You know why, because you're afraid of the NRA.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
GALLAGHER: Yes. Later, Senator Toomey told Fox News he did not believe the president was directing that NRA comment at him. Martha.
MACCALLUM: Trace, thank you very much. So, also today, President Trump going all in defending at times the NRA and taking a swipe at some lawmakers who he said are "petrified of them".
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: I'm a big fan of the NRA. I had lunch with them with Wayne, and Chris, and David on Sunday and said it's time. We've got to stop this nonsense. It's time. You can't buy a handgun at 18, 19, or 20. You have to wait until you are 21. But you can buy the gun, the weapon used in this horrible shooting at 18. And I'm a fan of the NRA. I mean, no bigger fan.
I'm a big fan of the NRA. These are great people. These are great patriots. They love our country. But that doesn't mean we have to agree on everything.
MURPHY: I think you under estimate the power of the gun lobby.
TRUMP: No, no. I'll tell you what, the reason I had lunch with the NRA on Sunday. I called them, I said, you got to come over. I said, fellas, we got to do something, and they do have great power. I agree with that.
They have great power over you, people. They have less power over me.
Some of you people are petrified of the NRA. You can't be petrified. They want to do what's right.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MACCALLUM: Here now, Dana Loesch, NRA Spokesperson. Dana, good to see you tonight. I know that this whole conversation was taking place when you were on the air this afternoon on your radio show and that you listened to it very closely, no doubt. What did you -- I'm curious what you thought about the whole tone of what this discussion seemed to be centered on.
DANA LOESCH, SPOKESPERSON, NRA: Right. And Martha, again, thank you so much for talking about this issue. I thought it made for really good T.V., but I thought some of what was discussed is going to make for really bad policy that is not going to protect our kids. Now, you heard the president, Martha, say that NRA leadership, met with him on Sunday and on behalf of members, there are two things that were stressed to the president. The first one is that we absolutely have to harden our schools and we have to protect our kids. There are millions of NRA members, and we're parents, too. I have kids in school. And so, this is an issue that I desperately want to see resolved. Which is why we're pushing for action on this as well.
The second thing that was stressed to the president is that we also must respect and protect the rights of law abiding Americans all across the country, who right now, are being punished for the failures of government.
Martha, it wasn't millions of gun owners who were missing the 45 calls to the Broward sheriff's office. And it wasn't us who were missing the two FBI tips. And it's not innocent law-abiding Americans all across the country who have, for decades, ignored the mental health crisis in this country. That was the political class. And the same political class right now is coming and telling all of these innocent Americans that we're the ones that have to pay for their failures. And we stressed that to the president; we said, look, I mean, this is -- you can't restrict the rights of law abiding Americans. And I want to be really clear what we're talking about here, we're talking about punishing innocent Americans and stripping from them constitutional rights without due process and making them pay for what the political class.
MACCALLUM: I couldn't agree with you that there needs to be a lot of focus on the errors at the FBI and at law enforcement. It is unbelievable what slipped through these people's fingers, and they need to be held accountable. This is, to me, is the scariest part of what happened there.
LOESCH: It is.
MACCALLUM: But in terms of the issue -- you know, for instance, the 21 issue, why is it -- why is it that the NRA seems fine with not being able to get a handgun until 21, but you're not in favor of not being able to get a long gun until 21. And it's interesting, just tonight, Walmart came out and made a statement, they said that they will no longer sell guns or ammunition to anyone under the age of 21.
LOESCH: Right. That's the scary thing, because it's not -- this isn't actually going to solve -- the people who are going to be affected by this law, Martha, is not the 19-year-old gang banger in Chicago, and it is not the people who are mentally been found mentally unfit and dangerous to themselves and others. The people who are going to be affected by this are people like I was. When I was 20-years-old and I lived on my own. It would deprive me of any right -- any method of defending myself. The people that it's going to affect are the 19-year-old law-abiding American who just wants to go and deer hunt, or the person who maybe wants to do a three-gun competition with hopes of competing someday. Those are the people it's going to affect. Future servicemen and women or current servicemen and women when they go and they enlist it's going to affect their ability to protect themselves at home as well. Making people wait doesn't solve psychosis. And once again, we're punishing law abiding Americans, stripping from them a right without due process.
MACCALLUM: Do you believe -- there has to be enough in place to be able to stop this young shooter in Florida from getting a gun that is not connected to his age, because clearly, he was on the radar of law enforcement, and clearly, he had mental health problems. He was the first who did it.
LOESCH: He was. And there was an article that came out in the Miami Herald as well, Martha, that discussed -- it was talking to Florida prosecutors. And I brought this up at the town hall. There's a Florida law that would have actually allowed law enforcement to arrest this individual and charge him with a felony, because he was sending written electronic death threats to classmates -- that's a violation of Florida law. And under that law, they could've actually arrested him. They could've looked this further.
MACCALLUM: Dana, I want to squeeze in one more question for you because the president talked about --I'm sorry. The president talked about due process today. And he said, you have to take away the firearms first and then go to court when you have a question about whether or not the person who has that gun should really have it in terms of their mental stability. Quick thought on that before we go.
LOESCH: Well, the NRA is going to -- first off, action and push for action on protecting children. But the NRA is also going to protect due process for innocent Americans. And that is an approach that we are going to hold to. Due process must be respected and we stressed this to the president at the lunch on Sunday, it is a foundational principle of this country. Due process must be protected and it must be respected in terms of going around any solutions --
MACCALLUM: So, let me ask you, because there definitely some differences --
LOESCH: We have school shields, any Eagles program, so many, Martha. And I want people, by the way, can I really tell people to check out nraschoolshield.com. Our resources are at their disposal.
MACCALLUM: All right. You got a lot of differences with the president. Some similarities, some things you have a lot in common. Do you think that you're going to be able to work this out?
LOESCH: We are in lock step -- Martha, we are in lock step with the president on protecting children. We are in total agreement with him on that.
MACCALLUM: I think everybody is in lock step with that.
LOESCH: And, but we want to respect due process.
MACCALLUM: Thank you very much, Dana. Good to see you tonight. Thanks for being here.
LOESCH: Thank you, Martha.
MACCALLUM: So, still to come tonight. Attorney General Jeff Sessions announcing a new task force go after opioid makers in an effort to combat this national crisis. We're going to speak to a mother who knows the heartbreaking cost of all of this too well. She has a message for all of us and all of you at home, you can't miss.
Plus, a stunning new report from the U.N. that ties North Korea to Syria's chemical weapons program. So, what are the ramifications for North Korea with this? Benjamin Hall has been on the front lines of this war. He joins us next with the human cost.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RAED SALEH, LEADER, WHITE HELMETS (through translator): Volunteers have to make crucial decisions about taking people from rubble. No medical point. No hospitals there. No safe place to transfer those injured.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MARTHA MACCALLUM, THE STORY HOST: Developing tonight, in the same week that President Trump leaves the door open to talks with North Korea, the U.N. releases a stunning report connecting the rogue regime to Syria's chemical weapons program. It comes amid one of the deadliest weeks in the country in rebel held Eastern Ghouta. Alone, more than 500 people have died. Look at these pictures of this completely destroyed city. I think about 400,000 people live there. Here's how the leader of the white helmets. They're volunteers who go in and rescue people under these unbelievable circumstances. Describes what they are dealing with now.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RAED SALEH, WHITE HELMETS LEADER: Two words, dooms day. Volunteers have to make crucial decisions about taking people from rubble. No medical point. No hospitals there. No safe place to transfer those injured. What we have witnessed in the last few weeks, international communities facing one of helpless in crisis. United Nations can't do anything in Syria.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MACCALLUM: Fox News' Benjamin Hall has been on the front lines of this civil war and he has seen these atrocities firsthand. He joins us live in London tonight with the story. Ben, good to see you tonight. Obviously, things have ramped up in Eastern Ghouta. And this is a horrific situation. And now we're learning that some of these weapons are coming from North Korea?
BENJAMIN HALL, FOX NEWS CORRESPONDENT: Absolutely. As you said, this is a stunning report from the U.N., and it began as an investigation into North Korea and how they were getting around the sanctions the international community was setting on them. Well, the experts found that they were taken down on this trail which led all the way to the battle field of Syria. And what they discovered there was that North Korea had been actively helping Syria in the production of chemical weapons. It said the Chinese companies have been behind North Korean shipments of at least 20 or 50 tons of material for use in Syrian chemical making facilities.
It also says that North Korean technicians of at least three Syrian military facilities right now. Syria's regime has been regularly accused of using chemical weapons. Most recently just two days ago in the besieged rebel held area of Ghouta. Ghouta has been, as you say, under heavy bombardment for much for the last 10 days, as the Assad regime now pushes for total victory. At least 500 people have died in the last week alone. Its 400,000 residents cannot escape. They have little access to food and water. They're all hiding and livings in basements. Its hospitals are now being regularly targeted and being hit from everything from incendiary bombs to chemicals, and numerous groups have been suggesting this is genocide.
Well, this new report is the first real evidence of active collusion between North Korea and Syria despite the two nations being under the strictest international sanctions. And there's no doubt that any profit will go towards funding North Korea's own military programs. But the relationship between North Korea and Syria goes back decades. In 1967, North Korean pilots fought alongside Syrian pilots against Israel in the six day war, and they build their first nuclear reactor. But what is new is learning how they manage to get around international sanctions and work on these horrible, horrible chemicals which kill indiscriminately. Martha.
MACCALLUM: They have said that they're not using chemical weapons. They remember what happened the last time. It was documented that they did. The Trump administration sent in missiles shortly after that. These are chlorine bombs and chlorine weapons. Describe to us the nature of what they do and the damage that they do, Ben.
HALL: Martha, as I said, they are indiscriminate. And I've spoken to many survivors of these attacks who have lost entire families. They're indiscriminate because they attack children first. They have the most susceptible lungs. And they get into the lungs, they start dissolving them. The nerve agents they have been known to use in the past, the sarin gas, well, that hits the nervous system and it's excruciating painful. Many mothers and fathers having to watch their children die because they're the ones that really go first. But, of course, Syria was supposed to give up its chemical weapons program under a deal that Russia negotiated in 2013.
And that was after Obama had set the red line. Well, they haven't given it up. There've been documented of using since then. Trump did act, and now France and the U.K. are also saying if they use chemicals again they may well act. So we're seeing change. But still, evidence from this report and the reporting I've done on the ground that the Syrian government continues to use these weapons.
MACCALLUM: One last question for you. You mentioned in your report that it is Chinese companies, a Chinese mining company, I believe, that is doing the transport of this piping and these tiles that allow the construction of these chemical weapons, isn't China supposed to be implementing sanctions against North Korea?
HALL: They are. And they've made some moves for years. They've been making the right sounds. But people have always suspected that North Korea acts as a thorn in the side of the U.S. for them. And these Chinese companies have been acting as shell companies. They've had numerous businessmen abroad saying that they represented North Korean financial institute. So, yes, China is supposed to be on board. Yes, we've seen them crack down to some degree, but North Korea seemingly able to get around them. And, of course, using that money for their own nuclear and ballistic missile programs.
MACCALLUM: Ben Hall, great reporting as always. Thank you very much, Ben. Good to see you tonight.
HALL: You too.
MACCALLUM: So still ahead, one of the biggest names in basketball is crying foul on the NCAA, why LeBron James says college basketball is corrupt. And as the DEA issues a dire new warning to Congress today about the growing opioid epidemic. This mother, Beth Schmidt, who lost her son to the crisis, has a message about where we are with this and where we need to go.
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SUSAN GIBSON, DEA: The opioid crisis has been and will unfortunately continue to be the top threat facing our nation.
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JEFF SESSIONS, ATTORNEY GENERAL: Our nation is facing the deadliest drug epidemic in our history. And make no mistake, what we're talking about today is not business as usual. The department of justice has taken historic new actions to reverse the rising tide of addiction and death.
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MACCALLUM: Awful situation. And the federal response to our nation's opioid crisis is ramping up this week. The Justice Department announcing a new task force to go after the drug manufacturers. And this week, lawmakers holding hearings on Capitol Hill to find ways to combat this epidemic, as the White House prepares to host a summit on this tomorrow. It is now estimated that 5 people die per hour of an overdose, something that my next guest knows all too well. Beth Schmidt lost her son, Sean, in 2013 to an opioid overdose, and she joins me now. Beth, thank you very much for being here tonight.
BETH SCHMIDT, LOST SON TO OPIOD OVERDOSE: Thank you.
MACCALLUM: Tell us a little but about what happened to Sean, so that other families can understand how quickly and how easily this can happen.
SCHMIDT: Well, Sean came to me probably in 2011. He came to me in 2011 and told me that he was addicted to heroin. We probably saw signs as early as 2010. However, hindsight is 20/20.
SCHMIDT: He got into treatment and he spent a little bit of time in jail after he relapsed, and by Christmas, 2013, he was no longer with us. It's devastating and he -- his struggle was very quick and very fast. But it was very hard.
MACCALLUM: Talk to me about -- obviously, at least now there is so much focus on this problem. It's an epidemic. And more people die of this than anything else in the United States right now. How do you feel about the pace of what's happening? Is it quick enough for you? Is it effective enough for you?
SCHMIDT: It's absolutely not fast enough, but we are moving forward and we're moving forward steadily. In Sean's case, it was just -- there was so much stigma. Stigma kills. And he was afraid to come forward. He was afraid to ask for help. He was ashamed of himself. He was afraid of the embarrassment that he would cause his family. And he didn't cause us any embarrassment. And we helped him with open arms and open hearts. And that's what we need to do. We need to help people that are struggling. We hear all too often all they need to do is ask for help. But if you ask for help and there's no place to go, then what are you supposed to do. So stigma -- competing against stigma is very difficult for someone that's struggling.
SCHMIDT: And if we can reduce that and we can increase funding -- reduce stigma and increase funding, then a lot more people can stand a chance because this is horrible.
MACCALLUM: Beth, do you believe that the funding has to go. I've spoken with another dad recently who built his own house -- started a foundation because he said there wasn't anywhere that was decent enough for his daughter to go to rehab. Is that where you'd like to see the focus going in terms of money?
SCHMIDT: Absolutely. Recovery -- there's not enough -- there's not enough focus on recovery. We have a lot of focus on detox. But once they go through detox. Once they go through rehab. My son was accepted into a 28- day program where the insurance company sent him home after 11 days, and they sent him home to me.
MACCALLUM: Not enough.
SCHMIDT: What was I supposed to do? How was I supposed to help that? We don't have enough recovery homes. We don't have enough support once someone goes through that rehab process. We need supports at home.
MACCALLUM: Beth, thank you very much. We will stay on it and we're going to cover the summit tomorrow, and we need to see progress on this. I thank you for your courage. And we're all sorry for your loss of your son, Sean. I know you don't want it to be in vain. Thank you so much.
SCHMIDT: No, I do not. Thank you so much.
MACCALLUM: So, coming up next.
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LEBRON JAMES, NBA PLAYER: I'm not a fan of the NCAA. I love watching March Madness. I think that's incredible. I'm not a fan how the kids don't benefit from none of this. I know, as the NBA, we have to figure out a way that we can share up our farm league and this kids, you know, feel like they don't want to be a part of that NCAA program. We have something here for them to be able to jump back on and not have to worry about going overseas all the time. I guess. NCAA is cool. It's cool. It's going to make headlines. It's corrupt.
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MACCALLUM: LeBron James taking a shot at the NCAA over corruption. Is he right? That's next.
MACCALLUM: So one of the biggest names in the NBA making some pretty bold strong claims about the NCAA. Watch.
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JAMES: I'm not a fan of the NCAA. I love watching March Madness. I think that's incredible. I'm not a fan how the kids don't benefit from none of this. I know, as the NBA, we have to figure out a way that we can share up our farm league and this kids, you know, feel like they don't want to be a part of that NCAA program. We have something here for them to be able to jump back on and not have to worry about going overseas all the time. I guess. NCAA is cool. It's cool. It's going to make headlines. It's corrupt.
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MACCALLUM: That, as we get ready for the Big East and March Madness, here now, Jim Gray, Fox News sports analyst. Jim, obviously, he's talking about all of the corruption that we have seen. There's been FBI investigation ongoing of many of these top tier NCAA teams for essentially bribery and corruption and setting people up and saying, well, you're going to go with this agent and you're going to go with Adidas after you're done. Where are we going with this?
JIM GRAY, FOX NEWS SPORTS ANALYST: Well, we're going down the same path we've known and we've been going down for a long time, it's just that the FBI is now involved, Martha. So now, this gives legitimacy to all of those people who've known all this for all of this time to say the underbelly and what goes on underneath college basketball is corrupt. LeBron is exactly right. And President Obama spoke out and he said that the NCAA cannot sustain itself going like this and it can't just be a farm league for the NBA. But asking the NCAA at this point to come up with reform after they've been complicit and corrupt in this is really kind of like asking the turkeys to organize Thanksgiving.
MACCALLUM: Yeah. Let's look at this quote from the head of the NCAA. Where is it? There we go. From Mark Emmert, the board and I are completely committed to making transformational changes to the game and ensuring all involved in college basketball do so with integrity. He goes on to say, we will also continue to cooperate with the efforts of federal prosecutors to identify and punish the unscrupulous parties seeking to exploit the system through criminal acts. He is shocked, shocked, shocked.
GRAY: And that's golly. And I have tremendous respect for him and I personally like him, but where have you been? If that's your take on this, I mean, what closet have you been in? What sand is your ostrich head in?
I mean, that's absurd -- that's obscene to now perpetuate that to the public and act as though you have no knowledge. Why do you have a compliance department? Why do we have these scandals going on all the time? If this is what the head of this is saying, something is beyond drastically wrong.
MACCALLUM: So you think we need to start paying these players so that it takes away the incentive for these kinds of bribery?
GRAY: Absolutely. Everybody is profiting here, Martha, the shoe companies, the agents, the institutions, the coaches, they're all making millions and millions and billions of dollars, and the only people that can't touch it are the players. They're the ones that are creating all of this. It's crazy. It's insane. They have had a long time to figure it out, and they've got to figure it out. They've got to pay these guys because it's just outright wrong. And it's been wrong for a long time and that's why there's all these stuff underneath the table.
MACCALLUM: Should they pay them in a way that they don't get until they graduate in a way that would encourage them in their education?
GRAY: Look, there's been a big fallacy for a long time. These are not student athletes. These are athletes-students. They're there for one purpose.
MACCALLUM: Some of them are.
GRAY: Most of them, particularly the one and done. And these big programs go so that they can get the exposure, so that they can move onto the NBA right away, so that they can get a big salary. And if that's the case, then we should quit putting these people in school and saying that they're there for an education because they're really there for a basketball career or a football career. And if they don't fundamentally change that, and make that so that it's exactly what it is and transparent, then they're going to always have these problems because all of these people are going to be delivered and then you get exploitation.
MACCALLUM: We'll wait for the full commission report. Condoleezza Rice involved in this. And we'll see where it goes. Jim, thank you.
GRAY: Martha, good to be with you. Good to be here.
MACCALLUM: Thanks for coming. So coming up next, we remember the late- Reverend Billy Graham.
MACCALLUM: Finally tonight, a live look at the capitol where the Reverend Billy Graham's remains lie in honor tonight in the rotunda. Earlier today, our nation leaders spoke of his impact on our country and the world.
Here's President Trump.
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DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: Starting at a small bible school in Florida, he soon led a nationwide revival. From a large tent in Los Angeles to 100,000 people in a single day at Yankee stadium, and I remember that because my father said to me, come on, son.
And by the way, he said, come on, mom. Let's go see Billy Graham at Yankee Stadium. And it was something very special.
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MACCALLUM: So the funeral will Friday in Charlotte. The president and the vice president and their wives will be there. That's our story for tonight. We'll see you back here tomorrow. Tucker is up next.
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