On this morning's "Face the Nation," PBS television anchor Charlie Rose revealed that he has interviewed Syrian president Bashar al-Assad, Assad's first interview with an American television outlet in nearly two years.
Rose, talking to host Bob Schieffer over the phone from Lebanon, said that Assad "denied that he had anything to do with the [chemical] attack."
"He denied that he knew there was a chemical attack, notwithstanding what has been said and notwithstanding the videotape. He said there’s not enough evidence to make a conclusive judgment. He would not say even, even though I read him the lead paragraph of the New York Times today in the story about their chemical weapons supply. And he said I cannot confirm or deny that we do have them. He did however say that if in fact we do have them and I am not going to say yes or no, they are in centralized control and no one else has access to them."
When Rose asked Assad whether he expects the US to strike, Assad said, "I don’t know."
"He said we prepared as best we can. He did not say that he assumed there was going to 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 anything to stop the attack, for example to give up chemical weapons, if that would stop the attack. I also raised the question with him 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."
"Face the Nation" guest and White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough responded to Rose's comments, saying "I think the most important thing is what Rose said at the end. Assad is closely watching what is happening in Washington." McDonough continued:
"We all believe that on August 21st [Assad] used chemical weapons against his own people in what is the largest chemical weapons attack in nearly three decades. So the question then for Congress...is should there be consequences for someone who has used these terrible weapons to gas and to kill more than 1,000 people, including hundreds of children, and what should those consequences be?"
Clips from Rose's interview will preview on CBS's "This Morning" on Monday. The interview will air on "The Charlie Rose Show" Monday night.