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Syrian Presidency via AP

President Bashar al-Assad told AFP that last week's chemical weapons attack is "100 percent fabrication," and that the U.S. concocted the whole story in "order to have a pretext" for the missile strike on his forces.

"There was no order to make any attack. We don't have any chemical weapons. We gave up our arsenal three years ago. Even if we had them, we wouldn't use them. We have never used our chemical arsenal in our history, said Assad. "Our impression that the West, mainly the United States, is hand-in-glove with the terrorists. They fabricated the whole story in order to have a pretext for the attack."

An important detail: The AFP said that during the TV interview, the Syrian government wouldn't let them use their own cameras — only cameras belonging to the Syrian government were allowed. And afterward, the government only gave AFP the tape of the first 5 questions and answers.

Meanwhile: Samples taken from the attack in Syria tested positive for the nerve agent sarin, the British delegation at the world's chemical weapons watchdog said on Thursday, per Reuters.

Go deeper

DOJ pressed to enforce Al Jazeera foreign agent ruling

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

The Justice Department is being pressed to enforce its own demand that the U.S. arm of Qatari broadcaster Al Jazeera register as a foreign agent.

Why it matters: The launch of Al Jazeera's new right-of-center U.S. media venture, Rightly, has refocused attention on the media company's alleged links to Doha, and DOJ's efforts to crack down on media outlets viewed as foreign interest mouthpieces.

Poll: Immigration is America's most-polarizing issue

Data: The American Aspirations Index/Populace; Chart: Will Chase/Axios

Immigration was found to be the most polarizing issue in America based on new polling from Populace.

Why it matters: Americans have surprisingly similar priorities for the U.S., but immigration stands out as one of the few issues with clear partisan differences. It underscores the challenge for advocates and lawmakers hoping to pass immigration reform in the coming weeks amid narrow margins in Congress.

2 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Lawmakers hide behind AG's investigation as Cuomo lingers

A billboard outside Albany, N.Y. Photo: Matthew Cavanaugh/Getty Images

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo is politically wounded but not yet dead, several state lawmakers tell Axios.

The state of play: Most are holding their fire and punting to state Attorney General Letitia James' investigation into sexual harassment allegations. They expect the inquiry to be credible and thorough — and buy Cuomo badly needed breathing room.