tv At This Hour With Kate Bolduan CNN April 5, 2017 8:00am-9:01am PDT
this is cnn breaking news. hello, everyone. i'm kate bolduan. this morning president trump is faced with the harsh truth that every president before him is forced to confront. you can come into the precedence we all of the plans in the world, but world events can come crashing in. want one, but two international crises on the president's desk. the horror playing out in syria and now north korea firing another ballistic missile. this hour the president will be welcoming a key ally to the white house, jordan's king abdullah, and we will also hear from them live a little later today. will the president speak publicly about the apparent chemical attack that killed dozens of people including children in syria and what will the king of jordan, syria's neighbor have to say in return? stand by for that. syria and north korea also providing the first major test for the new u.n. ambassador to the united nations. nikki haley is getting ready to address all of that at the u.n. security council. we will have her comments and we'll bring those to you live.
an important moment there. let's get over the important place right now. jeff zell anneny has more on th. the white house put out a statement on the chemical attack yesterday, but this could be the first time we hear from the president since putting out that statement. what are you hearing from the white house? >> the white house is drafting comments right now that the president will be delivering later today early this afternoon in the rose garden, and it will be about syria. it will be about the chemical attack and this will be fascinating to watch what the president says specifically about this. >> yes. >> because he said in a statement yesterday he called it reprehensible, but of course, the question is what does this administration intend to do with the assad regime? he had some criticism of president obama, of course, that syria red line and we have not yet got a full sense of what this president believes and in fact what his policy toward a syria. so we will get a much more, you
know, direct picture from him in a couple of hours when he has an outdoor news conference in the rose garden, kate. >> and that, of course, jeff is one crisis and just today. tomorrow the president is going to be welcoming the chinese president, and they'll be meeting and you know, they have said northia korea is going to come up and they have the new provocative action. what is the white house's reaction to that? >> reporter: that is a centerpiece of the discussions. the president has when he invites the president of china to mar-a-lago, and i talked to a senior official saying that time is running out here. this is a very urgent threat. so we're getting a sense of what, you know, the administration's posture toward this. we also had a very brief and terse statement from the secretary of state rex tillerson
and he said this. north korea launched yet another intermediate change ballistic missile. the united states has spoken enough about north korea. we have no further comment. that is fine to have no further comment, but that does not mean the problem has gone away, and kate, i am told that will be the centerpiece of the discussions tomorrow. the u.s. would like china's help on this emerging and very serious threat of north korea. >> how long can the silent treatment work and what actual impact does it have is a key question. jeff, a lot going on over there today. thank you. phil, great to see you. a lot to get to. when it comes to syria, there is this element that i think is really important to get to. all of the chemical weapons from the country were supposedly moved out of the country and destroyed in 2014. that was a big deal back then. if you were back in your former post, what questions are you asking among the intel
community? should the intel community have known about this? >> look, the questions you're asking and it's not clear to me they didn't know, by the way, kate. how can we be going to the white house that we know what happened here? the russians have an alternate view. i doubt they're telling the truth, but before the president takes action. he darn well better haver is the tud about what assad was doing here. i think he's 98% certain that this was the syrian regime, but that's the first question you have for the white house if you're at the cia. the second is a question that the cia and the defense department share. if the president wants to take military action, what are the kinds of targets that might show up on the table? what targets are militarily significant? what targets might be producing these kinds of munitions and the most interesting question, what targets will bring the most pain to bashar al assad. that's what's on the table. >> that's a lot of conversations and what lawmakers think and would like to see the president
move to do. again, we haven't heard any plan on why today is so key, but if we want to talk about another country where we have little to no intelligence on is north korea. making another provocative move overnight. the response from the secretary of state, 23 words. jeff zeleny read it for you, and it basically says we've said enough. we're not going to say anymore. is the silent treatment the right response right now? >> everybody else is looking at the americans and saying what are you going to do? so eventually whether it's nikki haley at the u.n. or the white house in conversations with the chinese and a press conference after or whether rex tillerson who has been the most silent secretary of state in history says something, you've got to say something. there's one point that we're learning from secretary tillerson's statement. when you get in the oval office the american people think that the president can do anything and when you look at the history of north korea like the history we had with trying to contain
the pakistanis. they had a nuclear weapon for 20-plus years. there's not much you can do if the other party, the north koreans, do not want to play. >> jim acosta speaking to a senior administration, official who said the launch was a spectacular failure. the missile exploded approximately 55 seconds after launch. i guess that's not the silent treatment anymore. maybe it still is. >> that's not the answer. we've had an acceleration in the north korean missile program going back months and years. there's talk of miniaturization of nuclear weapons, so to say that this one was a failure kicks the can down the road. eventually the white house will have to say are we going to do something or not in the wake of failures for years about trying to contain the north koreans. >> when time is running out, time is running out to what? what's next when that clock ticks down? great to see you, phil. thank you. >> thank you. all right. let's talk more about this and a
very important day. republican congressman from kentucky, congressman thomas massey. thank you very much for the time. >> thank you, kate. thanks for having me on. >> of course. you've seen these horrific images. let's talk about syria first. you've seen the horrific images of people, children coming out of syria right now. no public statements from -- no public comments from the president yesterday, but then a statement. he calls it reprehensible and then the president blames it on obama saying this in part. he said these heinous actions by the bashar al assad regimes are the consequence of past weakness and irresolution. >> it breaks my heart to see the images of the victims, i have to say that. let me tell you, kate, the only issue i've received more phone calls on other than the affordable care act, if you will, was going to war in syria
in 2013. president obama said assad crossed a line in 2013 and he said we should go to war with assad, that assad must go, and he came to congress for authorization. we never gave it to him because constituents melted our phone lines. frankly, people want us to take out isis, i believe, but it's dubious as to whether it serves the american interests to take out assad. >> right, but that goes directly to my question. the president's only public statement so far has been to blame president obama for inaction. is blaming president obama the answer here? >> um, i don't believe so. i'm not going to blame obama. he's gone. it's ours to deal with now and you know, i appreciate that president trump campaigned on a more restrained foreign policy, and i hope that's what we see in syria and north korea. >> we have fellow republican
john mccain and he has a very different position than you on syria, and i want to play for you what he said this morning and what he would like to hear from president trump following this. listen. >> i want to say -- i want to hear him say we will arm the free syrian army and dedicate ourselves to the removal of bashar al assad and the russians have to pay a price for their engagements and hezbollah are also heavily involved and all players here will have to pay a penalty and the united states of america is going to be on the side of people who fight for freedom and we will not sit by and watch chemical weapons being used to slaughter innocent women and children. >> that's john mccain speaking out yesterday. congressman, you are against intervention. you say this is what you hear from constituents and you say that's what you heard from constituents previously, but as you sit here today and see the slaughter of innocent children, does that change your view? >> well, with all due respect to
the senator of arizona, he's wrong, and he's not expressing the will of the american people, but i hope that the senator, and i can agree that president trump cannot unilaterally attack a country. he cannot commit an act of war against a sovereign nation without a vote in congress. so this really isn't up to rex tillerson or the president at this point. >> if the president of syria is committing crimes against humanity and slaughtering his own people. do you think there is something short of going to war with syria that you can support your fellow republican adam kissinger says, yes, there is something short of that. you can ground assad's air force. you can crater the airstrips that the air force is taking off from to commit these atrocities. can you not do that? >> i can't comment on classified information on tv, but according to "the washington post," we've been spending $1 billion a year in funding the rebels in syria
to no good effect. >> that's not grounding the rebels. what do you think about grounding assad's air force? >> well, you know, we had testimony from a military expert in front of congress that said that's a virtual act of war in syria, and that we would be at war with the russians at that point. i think it's a bad idea. >> earlier today, congressman, vana, a little girl who has become the voice of syrian children in the civil war. she spoke to cnn and here is what she said her wish is. listen. >> i want to stop the war, and i want the children of syria play and go to school, live in peace. we can -- we can help them. together, we can save them. >> to be clear, what she said
right there is that's all she wants. she wants for the children of syria to play and go to school. she's pleading for help. what do you say to her, congressman? >> i think what she's asking for is something that all children should enjoy, and i think that our intervention in syria has prolonged the civil war, and it is not helping there. president trump campaigned on a more restrained fiscal -- or i'm sorry, a more restrained foreign policy, and i hope that's what we see, and you know, we haven't created a better school environment for the children in iraq, frankly, by destabilizing that country, and i don't think it serves the children of syria or anybody in the united states to further destabilize syria. >> so you say -- you hear that plea from her, you see the images coming out of syria and you think the best policy for the united states right now is to do nothing? >> what i'm saying is we might end up making the situation worse if we launch air strikes,
if we -- against their airplanes and against hard targets on the ground. so we really need to step back and take a good look at this. the first casual tty of war is e truth and it's hard to know what's happening in syria right now. i would like to know how the release of gas, if it did occur, and frankly i don't know if assad had done that. it would tend to draw us into that civil war even further. >> who do you think -- who do you think is behind it? you think -- who do you think is behind it? >> you know, you've got a war going on over there. supposedly the air strike was on an ammo dump, and so i don't know if it was released because there was gas stored in the ammo dump or not. that's plausible. i'm not saying that's what i think happened, but -- >> you're more inclined the
position of what bashar al assad is saying and what the russians are saying than more inclined to believe what even your colleagues here in the united states believe is true, that this is assad and what human rights observers say is assad? >> i don't think it would have served assad's purposes to do a chemical attack on his people. so i, you know, it's hard for me to understand why he would do that if he did. >> congressman tom massie, thanks for your time. >> thank you, kate. coming up for us, i would be surprised if people don't end up going to jail and that's a pretty startling prediction from some democrats on the outcome of the russia investigations just as they're getting under way. do democrats have proof of this? also, ivanka trump speaking out for the first time since taking an official post at the white house. who she says about disagreeing with her father on some very thorny, big issues and we will take you live to the syrian border and we will also take you live right there. that is the u.n. security council. we are waiting to hear from u.s.
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house investigation into russia and intelligence leaks and now a new potential witness. the top democrat on the intelligence committee adam schiff says he's open to having former obama national security adviser susan rice come testify. listen. >> if she has pertinent testimony i'm sure she will be invited as will others. >> this comes as susan rice is pushing back over allegations that she deliberately unmasked names of president trump's associates from intelligence reports for political purposes. joining me now to discuss this the state of play and what's going on on capitol hill right now, quite honestly is congressman james clyburn. thanks for coming in. >> thank you very much for having me. >> do you think susan rice should testify before the committees? >> i don't see anything that's untoward about that? susan rice has been before committees often. i think that she expects to give
testimony when asked. i have observed her over the years, and i don't think she has anything to hide or to be ashamed of. she carried out her duties and responsibilities in a normal way. her job entailed requesting that things or people be unmasked and the job of the intelligence committee or group is to approve or disapprove. if they approve, fine. if they don't approve you should go on to the next request. so that's all that took place here. so all of this is to camouflage, is to deflect, is to keep the attention off of where the problems really are, and it all cries out for why the independent commission doing this because their -- >> you say this is to deflect and many democrats are, but at the end of the day you are
talking about someone with susan rice that comes with political baggage. she was a political appointee asking for information involving an opponent, of sorts, if you will. if the shoe was on the other foot, if this was former national security advisor condoleezza rice, wouldn't you think there were questions you want answered and not a distraction. >> i was an independent commission and i don't care whose feet are being placed in the shoes. the fact of the matter is we ought to have an independent commission looking at this. this is not anything that ought to be mired in any kind of political controversy and you cannot get politics out of the congress and out of political appointments and let's just forget all of this. bring on an independent commission that will do this the way 9/11 did or go all of the way back to watergate because i'll tell you something, i was around when -- i wasn't here in the congress, but i remember what they did very well, and i
can tell you that these issues surrounding russia, surrounding this campaign, last year's campaign, surrounding president trump or just as critical if not more so than watergate was. >> the fact of the matter is, congressman, democrats don't have the power to make an independent commission happen. the report on the hill is the white house is showing some signs of getting its investigation back on track. those who have the power to call for an independent commission or have the power to call for a select committee, they are not going to do that so do you think this committee can turn things around? >> i don't think the house committee can. i think that nunes has already made it very clear where he is. he is not going to change from that. i think the public knows that. the public wants an independent commission, and irrespective of what the republicans or
democrats may want, let the public weigh in on this, and i really believe we'll get to an independent commission. nobody will voluntarily give up their power and authority. i understand that, but the public has a way of making us listen. >> so democrats, of course, they talk quite a bit about smoke -- the smoke surrounding russia and this president. no one so far has found fire, but that has not stopped two of your colleagues. listen to this, congressman. >> have you seen any hard evidence of collusion yet? >> i guess i would say this, that my impression is that i wouldn't be surprised if after all of this is said and done that some people end up in jail. >> he said he would not be surprised if people ended up going to jail. i would be surprised if people don't end up going to jail. >> congressman, do you agree or are they getting out in front of the investigation a bit? >> look, you know, i don't like
that kind of discussion. this stuff that took place in the campaign last year, put her in jail, this person, if you ask him for immunity you are guilty of a crime. these kinds of things come back to bite you. what i would like for us to do is get to the bottom of this and irrespective of whether anybody goes to jail, let's make sure that we have a political process that all of the voting public can believe in, be comfortable with and that ought to be the criteria that we move forward on, and if anybody were to pay a price of incarceration as a result of the roles they played, that's something else again. let's just make sure that we clean up our act, we have good, dependable, electoral processes. that's why we snead need to loo our voter empowerment act that the voters have been pushing on for five or six years. >> let the investigation play
out before you talk about locking anyone up. >> always good to have you sir. >> thank you. >> coming up for us, i want to take you to a live look at the united nations security council right now. u.s. ambassador to the u.n. nikki haley will soon be delivering a response to the horrific chemical attack in syria that killed dozens including children. what will she say? who will she blame? i wonder if she heard what congressman tom massie had to say. we will take you live to the u.n. security council in just a moment. plus, president trump preparing to greet the king of jordan at the white house where the two will be holding a very important press conference. it was important before and it takes on more importance today when we see the crisis playing out overseas. will president trump talk about syria? we'll take you there live. ( ♪ ) it's off to work we go! woman: on the gulf coast, new exxonmobil projects are expected to create over 45,000 jobs. and each job created by the energy industry supports two others in the community. altogether,
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that killed dozens of people. this morning amnesty international has said this, that they believe a nerve agent such as sarin gas was deployed from the air after analyzing dozens of videos from the attack site. u.s. ambassador to the u.n. nikki haley might be speaking next. we'll be bringing you her comments the moment they begin. we'll get to senior international correspondent ben wedeman he's live from the syria-turkey border and very close to the chemical attack. what are you hearing there? what are you learning? >> reporter: well, we spoke to some of the victims in a turkish hospital here who were at the scene in khan, and at 6:30 in the morning he heard an air strike and ran up to the roof of his building and saw an explosion that had happened right outside his grandfather's home. so he ran across the street, up the block to the home and he found his grandfather slumped
over, lifeless. he said he looked like he'd been asphyxiated. when he saw that he ran outside in the street and called for the neighbors to help, but, of course, he was breathing all of the fumes in the area. he started to feel dizzy and he fainted and woke up in a turkish hospital. we spoke to his 55-year-old grandmother who remembers seeing just three rather yellow and blue, and then also feeling dizzy and fainting. now as we've been here on the syrian-turkish border we have seen a mobile laboratory belonging to the turkish government, a laboratory that's supposed to test for nuclear, biological and chemical agents going inside. the turkish health minister saying all of the information having examined all of these victims would indicate that chemical agents were used and they say they're going to hand
all of the information they've collected over to the world health organization. we heard the turkish president erdogan of accusing him of being a murderer. >> at the same time the syrian regime denies that this was them. >> reporter: yes, the syrian version of events is that they had been tracking what they believed to be the ongoings of a chemical weapons work shop or factory in this area. they claim they handed over information to the international chemical weapons prevention agency about this any that it was syrian warplanes that dropped bombs in that area that caused all of this death, but when at the end of the day what matters is you have more than 70 people, many of them children dead as a result of what
happened yesterday morning. kate? >> that's exactly right. ben wedeman, thank you for being there, ben. ben is on the turkey-syria border bringing us those updates. thank you very much. >> just minutes from now, president trump will be welcoming a crucial u.s. ally and neighbor to syria. he'll be meeting with the king of jordan at the white house. the two will be meeting in the oval office and holding a press conference and always important, and taking on new importance today. we'll bring that to you live. john mccain blasting republicans for considering neil gorsuch and in classic mccain fashion he is not holding back. >> i'd like to meet that numb skull that would say that that after 200 years, at least a hundred years of this tradition where the senate has functioned pretty well they think it would be a good idea to blow it up. idiot. >> no, whoever says that is a stupid idiot.
i know this is sudden, but they say: if you love something... set it free. see you around, giulia ♪ ivanka trump, the first daughter and now assistant to president trump is defending her new role in the west wing this morning. in an interview with cbs, ivanka trump says she disagrees with her father at times, but that she keeps it and will keep it behind closed doors. >> i think that for me this isn't about promoting my
viewpoints. i wasn't elected by the american people to be president. i think my father is going to do a tremendous job, and i want to help him do that, but i don't think that it will make me a more effective advocate to constantly articulate every issue publicly where i disagree and that's okay. that means that i'll take hits from some critics who say that i should take to the street. >> joining me now former secretary of state jason candor and columnist for the hill, karen mcnanny and kevin madden, senior editor at the atlantic ron brownstein and senior congressional correspondent for the washington examiner david drucker, cnn contributors all. great to have you all here. jason cantor, great to have you on. we hear from ivanka trump and in one of her interviews with cbs, yes, she has differences with her father.
no, she will not speak about them publicly and this will be kept behind closed doors. would you expect anything different not only from any adviser to the president and one that's the president's daughter, no less. >> i wouldn't expect something different, but i also recognize that it's not about qualifications and the qualifications is they're the least likely people to talk to the fbi. >> kailey, thoughts? >> look, i'm excited and happy that ivanka has the ear of the president and i think she's a highly qualified woman and i like that she highlights women issues and she was integral in the formation of paid family leave and a policy that donald trump was the first republican ever to my knowledge, to a spouse in the campaign context. i like that she has the ear of the president and she's highly qualified and i understand people want to be negative about her and want to cut her down and want to tear anyone down that has the trump name behind them and i'm happy she's there. >> she seems like a perfectly
nice person who is totally unqualified for the job. >> well, the president of the united states and when you talk about qualifications for the job, anyone can be elected president of the united states and he can bring in any adviser that he wants and qualifications, i think people like the qualifications they liked in the president and if they liked that they'll like the qualifications of his daughter. >> fine. >> just saying. there is that. >> kayleigh on this really quick and then i want to bring in the other guys. maybe you already see a different approach coming slightly from ivanka trump tweeting this out this morning about syria. she's heart broken and outraged about the atrocities yesterday. do you think this is going further than her father is comfortable doing, taking a difference stance from her father. we haven't heard that from him. >> i think she's in lockstep with him and sean spicer came out with a statement and he's going to speak about it today, but what i do hope to hear from
the trump administration, we heard president trump talk about safe zones. those need to happen. we need to do something and action is not the answer and i'm heartened to see ivanka trump saying this and perhaps the safe zones need to happen. >> david drucker, let me bring you in on this. what do you think the president should say today? where do you think the view is on capitol hill because if you talk to, i mean, if i talk to a couple of republicans they've got wildly different views on what they want to hear from the president or what the president's stance should be. t tom massie on the program earlier has a shocking position on what happened in syria that he doesn't believe it came from bashar al assad even though the president's own statement said that. >> i think the policy of walking softly in the middle east and around the world, for that matter, ceding ground to russia which is exactly what's gone on for a couple of years. first under obama and now under
president trump and whether he will re-engage and reassert u.s. influence there and do something about what is happening because the previous president was very good at communicating american values around the world. he wasn't very good at establishing a beachhead of u.s. protection and influence when people ran a foul of the values there and what we've seen ever since was president obama setting a red line for action in syria which he did not have to do and blowing right past it. we have been paying for that ever since. the question is will trump do anything about it and right now that is very unclear. >> or will he blame obama? >> control room, are you trying to talk to me? i'm sorry, guys. no one is trying to talk to me. anyway, it's just the voices in my head as i always like to say. ron, the president also woke up to this, not only international crises on multiple fronts. you also have the president and this is your strong suit, with 35% approval rating according to
quinnipiac. that's lowest than obama's worst approval rating. what do you see driving that right now? >> it's not only lower than obama's, it's significantly lower. no one has even been close to this level. look, he's got a couple of problems here. i think it is largely at this point about his personal characteristics, and his fitness for the job more than it is about the agenda. yes, the health care bill was very unpopular and i think you have a lot of voters who were ambivalent to begin with who voted for him despite doubts about his temperament and qualifications and somewhere between a fifth and a quarter of his voters say he is not up to the job and he's done more to compound that, and i would point to two other things and one is they have an intensity mismatch, the groups that should be for him are showing some cracking and you're seeing intense disapproval among other groups. his approval rating among republicans is significantly lower now than his disapproval
rating among democrats and we talked about this before, kate, in 2020 for the first time ever millennials will be the largest generation in the electorate and it's down about 21%. 21%, 22% say they share his values and 80% say they disapprove of his performance on the environment and linking back to our conversation about ivanka trump. she engineered the meeting with al gore and didn't seem to go anywhere with them and they repeal both of the centerpieces of president obama's plan to combat climate change. this is an issue for republicans and each if you have a short-term success donald trump is redefining the party of what will soon be the largest generation of voters in the electorate. >> kevin, with all of that in mind, if you're a republican member of the house and senate, what do you do with this number? >> well, look, i think the big number if you're a member of the house and senate if you're looking at 2018, i think ron is right. if you look at the president and his performance among republicans on election day, he
was getting around 93% support. right now that's down into the 70s. that's a big problem because that's a base that may not be as motivated in the midterms. the other thing you have to worry about are the independents and democrats and his number is very low with independents and if you need to marshal support you need those independents -- >> i'm sorry. kevin. i'm so sorry. i have to cut you off and i want to take all of us to the u.n. ambassador nikki haley speaking on syria. >> it was voted on unanimously and the joint mechanism came back and said that the syrian government committed chemical weapons acts against their own people three different times. um, but somehow now we don't like what the joint investigative mechanism does.
having said that, i will say in the life of the united nations there are times when we are compelled to do more than just talk. there are times we are compelled collective action. this security council thinks of itself as a defender of peace, security and human rights. we will not deserve that description if we do not rise to action today. yesterday morning we awoke to pictures to children foaming at the mouth, suffering convulsions, being carried in the arms of desperate parents. we saw rows of lifeless bodies, some still in diapers, some with visible scars of a chemical weapons attack. look at those pictures.
we cannot close our eyes to those pictures. we cannot close our minds of the responsibility to act. we don't yet know everything about yesterday's attack, but there are many things we do know. we know that yesterday's attack bears all of the hallmarks of the assad regime's use of chemical weapons. we know that assad had used these weapons against the syrian people before. that was confirmed by this council's own independent team of investigators. we know that yesterday's attack was a new low even for the barbaric assad regime. evidence reported from the scene indicates that assad is now using even more lethal chemical agents than he did before. the gas that fell out of the sky
yesterday was more deadly, leaving men, women, the elderly and children gasping for their very last breath. and as first responders, doctors and nurses rushed to help the victims, a second round of bombs rained down. they died in the same, slow, horrendous manner as the civilians they were trying to save. we all also know this. just a few weeks ago this council attempted to hold assad accountable for suffocating his own people to death with toxic chemicals. russia stood in the way of this accountability. they made an unconscionable choice. they chose to close their eyes to the barbarity. they defied the conscience of the world. russia cannot escape
responsibility for this. in fact, if russia had been fulfilling its responsibility there would not even be any chemical weapons left for the syrian regime to use. there is one more thing we know, we know that if nothing is done these attacks will continue. assad has no incentive to stop using chemical weapons as long as russia continues to protect his regime from consequences. i implore my colleagues to take a hard look at their words in this council. we regularly repeat tired talking points in support of a peace process that is regularly undermined by the assad regime. time and time again russia uses the same faults narrative to deflect attention from their allies in damascus. time and time again without any
factual basis russia attempts to place blame on others. there is an obvious truth here that must be spoken. the truth is that assad, russia and iran have no interest in peace. the illegitimate syrian government led by a man with no conscience has committed untold atrocities against his people for more than six years. assad has made it clear that he doesn't want to take part in a meaningful political process. iran has reinforced assad's military and russia has shielded assad from u.n. sanctions. if russia has the influence in syria that it claims to have, we need to see them use it. we need to see them put an end to these horrific acts. how many more children have to
die before russia cares? the united states sees yesterday's attack as a disgrace at the highest level, and assurance that humanity means nothing to the syrian government. the question members of this council must ask themselves is this, if we are not able to enforce resolutions preventing the use of chemical weapons, what does that say for our chances of ending the broader conflict in syria? what does that say of our ability to bring relief to the syrian people? if we are not able to enforce resolutions preventing the use of chemical weapons, what does that say about our effectiveness in this institution? if we are not prepared to act, then this council will keep meeting month after month to
express outrage at the continuing use of chemical weapons and it that we are compelled to take our own action. for the sake of the victims, i hope the rest of the council is finally willing to do the same. the world sneads to see the use of chemical weapons and the fact that they will not be tolerated. thank you.
>> you're listening right there to the u.s. ambassador to the united nations, nikki haley. a passionate, powerful statement coming from her. discussed this, what she's saying, what it means for u.s. policy and u.s. position on what is playing out in syria right now. joining me to discuss, jeff zeleny. arwa damon cnn editor-at-large. arwa, you were sitting here when she was standing up showing the pictures of the children, we cannot close our eyes to the pictures. a powerful statement, no questions, passionate. what did you hear? >> i heard a lost of rhetoric. it's similar to rhetoric we've heard in the past. the images were heartbreaking, no one is debating that.
to get to the crux of the issue, it's one thing to condemn russia, it's one thing to turn around and say, look, russia you're assad's ally. it's another thing to go further and actually threaten russia with something concrete because as long as the russians and iranians aren't fully pushed into a corner. unfortunately, that's what it needs to take, they need to be pushed into a corner before something needs to change. >> jeff, as we were speaking earlier, you said that the white house, they were drafting comments to speak in the rose garden on syria. did you hear a position policy from nikki haley just now. >> certainly. ambassador haley there talking in more direct and more explicit and sharp er words against russa than the president has used himself. she said if russia has the influence on syria as they say
they have, we need to see them use it. as arwa said, no doubt, if he repeats that message or echoes that word in the white house in about an hour or so's time that will be significant. if he doesn't, that will be significant as well. the president's posture towards russia has been muted and friendly. and certainly has not followed what nikki haley and others have said here. i think the words from the ambassador, she's speaking for the united states. she's offering the policy of the united states here. i think it's incredibly significant. again will the president follow suit here or will he not. if he does not, i think we know -- we still have so much uncertainty about the trump doctorate here. he was so critical of the obama one, we'll see if he has one himself. >> but when you listen to the totality of what we heard from nikki haley, chris, let me bring you in, russia cannot escape responsibility for this.
if nothing is done, then these attacks could continue. bottom line, it sounds like she could be threatening action. >> well, how about russia does not seem to be interested in peace. those are strong words, arwa is obviously right, rhetoric and policy are not the same thing. one is easier than the other. the obama administration learned in russia. what i had will say to jeff's point i was struck how directly ambassador haley took on russia in this. essentially to do something. remember, donald trump is dealing with a somewhat self-created crisis domestically as it relates to russia, and his own willingness to ever sort of speak out to anything close to these terms when it comes to condemning vladimir putin in russia for syria, for many other things. so, i was struck by that. now, does rhetoric equal a changing in policy from the top?
oftentimes, president trump's surrogates say things that he did not necessarily echo and maybe he doesn't believe. so, i think the change in policy obviously will come from trump. but i was struck, if the white house, and i think they did look at those remarks, approve those remarks, it's a much more rhetorically aggressive camp than we've seen an station take to russia. >> as we hear over and over, arwa, in diplomacy, words really do matter. what many folks were struck with yesterday, as this was playing out, there was basically silence for hours from the administration, while other foreign leaders were speaking out and condemning this. hearing these strong words, these pictures, the startling imagery that she stood up to show, what will the syrian people hear from that, if they get the message? >> they've heard this before. that's been the problem. no western leader, no u.s.
leader or administration official has stood there and said we're really happy with what's happening in syria. we're really glad everyone is dying. they are so fed up with hearing different versions of the same kind of condemnation of the actions taken there. whether it's chemical weapons or barrel bombs or the intentional targets of hospitals or schools. the real question is what is the u.s. administration willing to put on the table to force the russians' hands and defact toe then force the assad regime's hand to actually stop this from happening? do they want or will they insist on bashar al assad leaving which they're saying is not necessarily a priority -- >> that statement, that statement of suggestion came nikki haley, before we saw the chemical attack overnight. so, that is a big question.
>> it is a big question, and maybe that position is going to change but when you're a syrian and you're looking at this, they're going to look at this as, oh, it's going to take a chemical attack, this much depth for the u.s. to change its verbal position. what is it going to take for actual on the ground actual position? >> this raises the stake even more than possibly could for when the president has its joint conference with syria's neighbor, king abdullah of jordan, speaking later this afternoon. but also other breaking news important on the national security front coming from the white house. >> jeff, let me bring you in on this. this has to do with steve bannon, the president's chief strategist, what's happened? >> indeed, the president, we're told that the president has removed steve bannon from the principles committee. this is something that's incredibly interesting, kate. you'll remember when this administration was forming its
government, the decision to put steve bannon a political strategist on the principles committee of the national security council was heavily scrutinized and criticized from republicans and democrats alike, mainly republicans. saying it was a very unusual moment for a political strategist to be on the principles committee of national security. what that means he essentially had the same seat at the table as chairman of joint chiefs, secretary of defense, secretary of state. now, we're being told there's a readjustment of this thinking. and it's largely because the new national security adviser general mcmaster is now in charge of this. general flynn, of course, who we've been talking about so much in recent days involving the russia investigation, he is, of course, no longer here. so removing steve bannon from the principles committee is another step towards bringing more structure, sort of a traditional structure, if you will, to the national security
council. it is being explained to us by one administration official saying that this is something is that steve bannon wanted. that he was there sort to keep an eye on flynn. but i'm also told by another republican close to this white house who said don't necessarily believe that. that there is a power struggle, as there always is, going on inside the west wing. inside this white house. this is likely part of that as well here. there is a sense bringing on jared kushner, ivanka trump, of course, trying to return to some sort of a traditional structure here. >> jeff, i'm going to take you off and take you to the building behind you. >> sure. >> you have the king of jordan and the queen arriving to meet the president and first lady melania trump. let's just watch, guys.