tv Inside Politics CNN April 7, 2017 9:00am-10:01am PDT
chemical weapon attack the president blames on the syrian government earlier in the week. on the table in those sessions with china, the trade relationship, but also the prospect of another military confrontation possible with north korea. he said in advance of this meeting he needs china's help to get north korea to back down in its testing of ballistic missiles and development of its nuclear program. we will see if he gets progress with the chinese or whether north korea could be added to the task list. jeff zeleny is standing by. he's down in mar-a-lago. you see this high stakes meeting with china. no mention from the president there of syria. saying he expects an outstanding relationship with president xi. let's go back to a minute about the big decision last night. the president in the rose garden the other day said he was deeply moved by those pictures and he left washington and went down to mar-a-lago last night. before you jump in and give details i want you to listen to the president of the united states explaining after months and indeed years saying going
into syria would be a mistake, he decided to act. >> tonight i ordered a targeted military strike on the air field in syria from where the chemical attack was launched. it is in this vital national security interest of the united states to prevent and deter the spread and use of deadly d chemical weapons. >> jeff, take us inside this decision. what convinced the president to essentially forget many things he had said as a private citizen and then during the 2016 campaign? >> john, such a swift turn of events really in the last 48 hours or so. and we are told by several administration officials after the president made his speech last night we were briefed here near mar-a-lago by the secretary of state rex tillerson as well as the national security adviser
general h.r. mcmaster and other administration officials we've talked to. they say the president was moved and changed by seeing those gruesome grizzly images from the chemical attacks earlier this week and he did immediately order several options from his military advisers, three options to be exact. once he landed here in florida yesterday afternoon around 3:00 or so, he immediately went into a meeting with his top national security advisers. as he was flying down here, it was around 2:00 or so, he came back and talked to reporters on air force one for just a couple minutes. we asked him repeatedly about assad, should assad stay in power. that's when he said the comment that we've heard a lot now over the last 12 hours or so. he said something should happen. he paused before saying that. he knew something was going to happen. he knew that he was going to order that strike. so this is what changed his mind, changed his view we are
told. john it's also important to put this all in the full context. this is an administration that has struggled domestically. has struggled on the legislative front. has struggled to get things going. this is something the president himself could order, that he could do, that he could show a decisive act here . it's important to put it in the context of his time. it is one of the things that has done that has been widely praised by democrats and republicans to a point. they want to know what his syria policy is overall. administration officials are saying this morning that this was a limited strike. this was something that was directly in response to the chemical attacks on tuesday. but this opens the door to so many questions. what in fact is his posture towards syria going forward, on russia specifically. as the secretary of state heads to moscow next week, what will those conversations be? john, i thought it was interesting. one thing the president said, he said i believe that lots of very potentially bad problems will be
going away. i'm not sure that is -- will happen very quickly, but this threat from north korea hanging over him. the meeting with the president sitting there with his chinese counterparts so much different this morning, because one of them launched a big military strike overnight. that certainly casts president trump in a very different light this morning for that meeting. >> it certainly does. as he continues the meetings, we'll check back if we get any more insight from the meeting with the chinese or about last night. russia of course has a big military presence in syria so a confrontation with ba sharr-- s this will cause further damage to a relationship that already had some pretty major issues. >> vladimir putin calling it an
act of aggression but the prime minister saying this has brought the united states and russia on the verge of a conflict on the ground in syria. they're of course saying what does this do for the counter terrorism effort against isis? having said all that, john, right now tonight in moscow they are hoping it is one and done. they have been very successful in the last year getting a seat at the table. they are really the power brokers in syria. it gives them the foot hold in the middle east they clearly wanted. that might be why you did not see the surface to air missile capability come into play yesterday. they would have figured out this would have been a prime location to hit. it wasn't that hard to figure out that the pentagon might hit that as a target. so they're putting in a lot of rhetoric saying they suspended the air safety agreement between the two countries. that's where they get online with each other and make sure they do not have any collisions in the air over syria. both the u.s. coalition and russia in the air. they're saying they've suspended
that. what does that mean? we don't know as of yet. lavrov was the one that was most optimistic saying the relationship is at a low t. doesn't mean it's irreversible. so interesting again for what jeff zeleny was saying. rex tillerson is on the ground middle of next week. they have already figured out what the per -- >> paula, as you know, the obama administration tried repeatedly and it was criticized for not enforcing the red line. president trump has drawn anne new red line s. there any optimism on the russian end that you can get back to the geneva talks when it believes assad should say or be a part of any negotiation about the future of syria and the trump station in a week has gone from saying he can stay to now saying it cannot see a scenario where you can have a
political solution that left him in power? >> that's the key. russia saying look, understanding, not saying but understanding that the entire rules of this game have changed. they are hang on to any modcum of hope when they come to the table they will broker and that's what they're up to. kremlin spokes person repeated again yesterday our support for as assad is not unconditional and that that is key. >> big test for the president in syria and in a region where mean of his predecessors have been more than frustrated. here to provide help is edward, and he's the former u.s. ambassador to isreal and syria. now heads the baker institute at rice university. grateful for your time today and your insights. i want to start with the administration essentially saying without using these words the red line now is the use of
chemical weapons. this could be a one off. if assad stops using chemical weapons. is that possible or has the united states now bought in to the syrian civil war? >> i think the decision to launch the missiles in response to assad using the weapons t looks like gas has used which the syrians have had for many years in their inventory which we thought had been dismanteled by the russian broker deal but obviously not. i think this signal is one that is very deliberately targeted to the chemical weapons use as a red line that this
administration feels if that red line is crossed there will be a price to pay. i think the snignal trump has sent out is that the united states strategic restraint has its limits. there's no free ride if you use chemicals of mass instructiodes. if it relates to this one incident and they do not rec retaliate in a way that there's further military action it sends a very strong signal back by military force that this is a red line that the entinternatio community should not allow anyone to cross. >> you understand this regime better than most. i want to try to get at what was assad's calculation in doing this? if the united states is correct and it says the intelligence is overwhelming that the regime launched this attack, what was assad's calculation? as you answer, listen to senator marco rubio, republican of
florida who says essentially assad is making a calculation now about our new president, president trump, and what he will do next. >> like anybody else assad sits here and says this is the price for doing this. here's the benefit for doing this. i think for far too long he has said the price of these attacks is i'll get some nasty letter from the u.n. or bad press and the global market. but the benefits are i get to defeat my opponents even if i have to kill a bunch of innocent people in the process. hopefully that cost benefit analysis will have shifted a little bit after last night. >> do you think the cost ben nit analysis has shifted or will assad just take this as i can use conventional bombs, i can shoot my own people, i just can't use kachemical weapons. >> he's not a strategic thinker.
he's tactically very cleverer. he's hung on to power. but fundamentally i think he was listening very carefully to the trump administration's statements of last week in which he probably drew the conclusion that regime change and he himself is not a priority for the administration and he probably then calculated that he could get away with these chemical weapons attacks against his opponents. so he miscalculated. it was a stupid decision on his part frankly because the administration did act mi militarily and has laid a marker down. i think he miscalculated the administration and he made a terrible miscalculation in having his air force use these chemical weapons. >> and i assume as he thinks about his next moves, the view
of moscow and tehran will have a lot to do with what assad feels he should do next. >> it's interesting, i believe that putin has played a weak hand in the middle east, relatively weak hand, very skillfully and we have not played our hand as skillfully as we we could have given who knee are and our diplomatic and our military capabilities. and i'm talking about the last few years up to the present incident. but the russians and the iranians own this problem because they are supporters of assad's regime. that takes on consequences and they must not be comfortable of the person they are supporting because of his actions that are putting them in a very difficult spot. because this use of chemical
weapons, the very staunch move by the trump administration has sent a snell that this administration's strategic restraint is limited. and chemical weapons is a line that should not be crossed. that now affects u.s. russian relations. it's very timely that rex tillerson, the secretary of state, is going to be in moscow next week. that is going to take on critical dimensions, that discussion. but putin has to think of the big picture and that's the strategic relationship between the united states and russia. and iran has to think very carefully of the person and the regime that its supported in syria. owning these types of regimes has its consequences. so what pleases me about all of this is that a signal has been sent out that it's not a free ride to be supporting the policies of a regime like this. >> mr. ambassador, greatly appreciate your time and insights today.
thank you very much. >> you're very welcome. up income the united states senate has just voted to confirm neil gorsuch as the next justice on the supreme court. also next, what now? will the united states get drawn into the syrian conflict and what message did the president send beyond syria? you might not ever just stand there, looking at it. you may never even sit in the back seat. yeah, but maybe you should. ♪ (laughter) ♪
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minutes. >> john, it certainly was baked into the cake that neil gorsuch was going to be confirmed today. a lot of drama up here on capitol hill involving invoking the nuclear option and the controversial procedures that were made up here to get trump's nominee through. but he was indeed confirmed today by a vote of 54-45. only three democrats switching sides and siding with the republicans here. voting to confirm neil gorsuch. vice president pence, he presided over the senate during this vote not because he was needed to be on hand to break any tie, but because it was more of the historical nature of the moment. certainly the white house wanting to highlight that they are certainly notching a big win and getting this nominee through. what's next for neil gorsuch? on monday he will attend a private ceremony at the supreme court where he will be sworn in by chief justice john robert and
then up for a public ceremony at the white house and then he gets to work on the bench on april 17th. >> sunlen, thank you so much. judge gorsuch will be on the job next week. announcing the cruise missiles last night president trump said it was important military use of american military. >> using a deadly nerve agent as assad choked out the lives of men, women and children. it was a slow and brutal death for so many. tonight i call on all civilized nations to join us in seeking to end the slaughter and bloodshed in syria and also to end terrorism of all kinds and all types. >> now, we know the president was moved by those horrific pictures of children killed in
the attack. there were also images after a 2013 weapons attack and back then mr. trump repeatedly warned then president barack obama to show restraint again to our very foolish leader, do not attack syria. if you do, many bad things will happen. and from that fight the united states gets nothing. joining me in the studio to stair the reporting and insights, karen, phil matting -- those pictures were horrific. they would move anybody. but he does have his history. what is it that change thd president? is it the gravity of the job? is it his new national security team or does he realize he's president of the united states now, and i don't mean this disrespectfully, but not a private citizen who can free lance on twitter with no consequences. >> think he realizes now this is
his problem. i don't think most americans care what he said in 2013. what they care is going forward that he has a clear sense of what the goal is and how far he is willing to go to accomplish it. and right now he has a lot of support on both sides of the aisle from european allies. the question, again, is are there going to be next steps required? >> and do we know what -- we know chemical weapons. he drew a red line. he didn't use those words, but this president of the united states drew a red line and essentially made clear he will enforce it unlike the previous administration which did not. but beyond that, if assad uses conventional weapons against his own people which he has for years, if we see pictures of a massacre but they're not from chemical weapons, is that okay? >> they've made clear they don't want this to be a broader campaign. it was a targeted action in response to a specific attack.
that said donald trump made very clear that he's understand going to forecast what he's going to do next. i think we saw there was this chemical attack and we saw him respond. yes, there was the reality that this is his problem now, but there was also the reality that he was uniquely in a position to do something about it, which was not the situation when he was sitting on his couch tweeting in 2013. and so i think that he is sort of learning the lesson of it's one thing to have a plan going in and it's another thing to be the world leader that everyone else is looking to in the wake of these attacks. it's fine to say this will be a very targeted mission, but i think you do have to wait and see what happens next with assad and what happens with russia. >> i think being on capitol hill what i kept hearing is what happens next. i had kind of senior congressional aide made clear this was a head snapping change. if you listen to the u.n. ambassador or the secretary of
state, now they're targeted states. there's a lot of support on capitol hill. all support what happened last night. what everybody wants to know is what happens next and more importantly when does congress actually start getting involved in this progress as feasible or not feasible. >> and we'll spend more time on that because it's important. some saying if it's a one off he has a right to defend national security interest. sean spicer tweeted out a picture of the president in his final meeting where he called off. you see the president with his national security team but you see his son-in-law jared kushner there as well. i want you to listen. it a a new discrimination. sometimes you get on the job and you learn things or you change your mind. this is rex tillerson one week ago from thursday and then yesterday on whether bashar al assad could stay in power. >> the status and the longer
term status of president assad will be decided by the syrian people. >> assad's role in the future is uncertain clearly and with the acts that he has taken, it would seem that there would be no role for him to govern the syrian people. >> it was heinous what we saw the other day, but sadly not the first time we've seen that. why have they flipped the switch. >> one of his pitches was he would be unpredictable and he certainly was this time. i think that does have some merit in assad's thinking probably in the way he responds to that. it also has a serious down side when you're talking about foreign policy. they seem to be drawing a useful line. this was a violation of the treaty. it was in the international community that was not abided by on chemical weapons. they are a national standard. in our interest to discourage their use. then i think both president obama and candidate trump were too reliant on the idea that
there's nothing to do or all out and boots on the ground. there are many things in the middle. i think making the case for those is worth doing. i think candidate trump didn't do that. he actually adhered a bit to the obama line and the arguments that there were these two ends of the spectrum. you do have to be clear about what your end game is and what you understand your strategy to be. i am not sure the unpredictable and often changing president trump is the one to make that case. >> do you think yes, he is unpredictable and many people had concerns on both sides of the aisle, but when he was presented with these options, he those the narrowest options. he chose a targeted cruise missile stripe. he did not wipe out airfields or their entire capacity. he chose to send a message. i don't know if that might be cold comfort to people who are weary about president trump or not, but it does say sto me he
thought about the downfall and ramifications, but the question is what's next? >> exactly. what is the response and what does the president do if the response on the ground in syria is not what he's expecting or liking. u.s. missiles fly into syria. where did they hit and what damage did they cause? we'll get a military assessments just ahead. what took you so long? i know, i saved a ton of money on car insurance. that's what i'm talking about! geico also gives you 24/7 access to licensed agents! booooyah. good game, you really crushed it. no son, geico crushed it. ♪ ♪ anyone ever have occasional constipation,diarrhea, gas or bloating? she does. she does. help defend against those digestive issues. take phillips' colon health probiotic caps daily with three types of good bacteria. 400 likes? wow! try phillips' colon health.
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bashar al ass . live pictures here at the united nations. that's the japanese ambassador to the united nations speaking at an emergency meeting the security council to discuss the syria crisis. the russian ambassador due to speak soon. we'll take you there live for that. u.s. ambassador nikki haley will speak. we'll take you there live for that. back here in washington most members of congress supporting the president's action. most members. a lot of questions about what would come next. but most supporting the strikes. not all though. tim kaine, democratic senator from virginia, he says the president had no right to do this. >> there is no legal just if justification for this. does the constitution matter? it says that congress needs to
declare war. that's what trump said when he was a citizen. when you say it doesn't matter, you're kind of blasting congress . it matters. it's 1.6 million families like mine that have a kid in the military. >> you can see it's clearly personal to senator -- the russian ambassador speaking to the united nations. let listen. >> international stability could be extremely serious. this attack was a flagrant violation of the 2015 memorandum on preventing incidents and ensuring security during our operations in syrian air space and the ministry of defense of russia has stopped its cooperation with pentagon under that memorandum.
of recent times the united states administration has often talked about the need to combat international terrorism and this was just -- this justified american troops and their allies being present on syrian territory. although they were there without the invitation of the legitimate government of syria and without the approval of the security council of the united nations. manipulating articles of the united nations charter beyond any criticism. the aggression by the u.s. has only facilitated the strengthening of terrorism. the attack came against syrian armed forces structure and its air force. that is against those who overall these years have been combatting terrorism. it's not difficult to imagine
how much the spirits of these terrorists have been raised after the support from washington. after the attack there were massive attacks by isil against syrian military sights. once again, we repeat once again we repeat the syrian armed forces will continue to be the antiterrorist institute of the syrian arab republic? who will fight against terrorism in these goroups who have come o syria in hundreds of thousands? you've destroyed iraqi military, libyan military bases and see what's happened. in fact, these actions contradict international
decisions including the geneva communication which we designed with you and there it says -- it talks about settlement while maintaining national institutions. is that the sort of international institutions that you are supporting? the russian federation from the united nations organization has stated the need to establish an international coalition to counter act terrorism which would be on the basis of international law and on many occasions we've sent signals to washington of our readiness to undertake such cooperation. as we see it, you have chosen a different path. we must recall when you take your own path that this leads to horrible tragedies for countries in the region and the people living there. think of the consequences. remember that what you have
produced in the middle east. think of your steps and how they have impacted on the political settlement process in syria. now, today's appeal to move forward with the political process, they are hipocritical unfortunately. over recent days there have been clear progress. now, what aims guided you when you undertook -- you undermined this progress and the progress achieved was not thanks to you at all. now returning to the history of chemical weapons, now in syria
the u.s. and the uk and france came up with a dropped resolution. it was greatly erroneous in its very logic. it was based on predetermining damascus being guilty, but where's your pirinciple of assuming innocence? why don't your capitals recall this in middle east and other regions? why did you forget the presumption of innocence in these cases? now all this is taking place because washington, london and paris, i spoke about this in close consultation and i say this again, have this paranoia idea of over throwing the government in sovereign syria. this was clearly shown by the
nondiplomatic actions and the statements made by the uk. mr. rigroff, stop putting forward these unprofessional arguments and accusations against my country. these are not diplomatic. they are -- they are lies. once again i warn don't even try to get into fights with the arab -- in the arab world. nothing will work. and nothing will be achieved. that's why you're getting annoyed. all arab countries recall your colonial h
colonial hiprocicy. he talked about issues and i'd like to recall exactly what has happened. those who undertook this attack near no way interested in an impartial investigation by the -- a competent international authority to find out exactly what took place. i will say even more you are afraid of such an investigation. you are afraid of real genuine independent investigation. what would happen if the outcome of this investigation would contradict your anti-government paradigm? you would be afraid of investigations of what took place in other places.
the permanent represented of the usa said that there is witness from the intelligence services of the usa that the government forces use chemical weapons and we said show us. specialists will see whether this is the case or not. but we will recall the general power i believe in this very room. he talked about chemical weapons, weapons of mass destruction were not found. let's work either with professionals or just work with ultimatums. we're living in a very complex and multi polar world. it's difficult to live in this world, but russia has proposed to its partners on the security council constructive alternative. but you have nothing to accept.
there was no professional alternative. you didn't put forward any good arguments to us. and specifically our initiative was based on the appeal for specialists on a geographical basis and the opcw fact finding mission and the opcw for weaponing in syrweapons in syria and to visit this site where this took place and neighboring areas to conduct a professional investigation. now, all syrian parties were asked to give immediate access to where the events took place. it's not irrelevant to recall that the syrian government does not control this area.
there are battle hardened groups from outside who are closely related to terrorist groups. they have things to hide including in the context of the chemical dossier that you're trying to hide this again. again, as you showed in aleppo. but when aleppo was freed, everything became clear. it's no coincidence denthat the complaints against syria of chemical weapons and their storage by extremists in special warehouses and they're being used by the army and civilians has just been ignored or it's been studied for month after month without any outcome. the opcw, the fact finding
mission, does not work in a conscientious manner. they prefer to come up with statements of opposition groups, internet blogs, social networks, and a whole range of ngos of a very doubtful reputation. and they work with information and evidence on -- from the areas where the events took place. they don't even look at that evidence. and they want us to agree with this information? it's not even worth looking at. now, in our draft we also set out the need to establish a balanced in geo gaff-- so far t
fact finding mission experts have been made up of representatives from one country who are in the forefront of the anti-damascus parties. now, proof of the blatant double standards is the ignoring of the chemical attack carried out by terrorists in the middle east as a whole. recall the recent events in mosul in iraq. where was your warning? first and foremost to those who are establishing this headline action? are these victims of a different category? second class victims? why do we not see in the headlines of your newspapers the tragedy in this be besieged town
of mosul. the attack is to distract attention from the victims caused by unilateral actions. they are attacking homes and civilian targets. so humanitarians make no sense. let's recall the little girl. she lived in mosul. you didn't say absolutely any word about this little girl who became a symbol of this tragedy. and when a coalition bomb fell on her house, everybody around her was killed. thank god the girl remained alive, but her life was -- had to be fought for. now her life is out of danger but she's almost blind. we will not in this room set up a cynical show and holdup photographs, but the mosul
tragedy must be publicized. people just know about it. nothing was said about mosul. and we do not want when we talk about mosul draw attention from syria. those who know opposition on this, we know that this is a lie. we dont wish not wish to draw n any anybody, particularly what terrorists are doing. we just merely want to tell you that if we are fighting terrorism, let's do it on standards. where principles or any other principles don't try. let me once again argue with ourselves and iraq. you will not get us involved in that. look at what you are doing in iraq and what we are doing. the ten nonpermanent members of the security council did attempt
to find a com ppromise last evening. they thanked the american delegation for a fact that the vote had been postponed, but there was nothing to thank them for. our colleagues didn't even imagine that the decision was made with totally different ideas in mind. it was not with the idea of continuing constructive dialogue. washington had already chosen to take military action which was undertaken when members of the security council had hardly left the u.n. building. we call upon the united states to immediately cease its aggression and to join those efforts being made for a political settlement in syria. and to work together to combat
the terrorist threat. in that sort of cooperation, we are ready to undertake such cooperation. today many insulting words have been heard with regard to our right to veto. our right. which we have used in a responsible manner. but we use it only in such circumstances when you, you try in the security council to impose your irresponsible geopolitical project. the security council must develop agreed international decisions. but this -- these geopolitical adventures will never be supported. thank you very much.
>> thank you to the representative of the russian federation. now we will give to the floor to the representative of -- >> that's nicki haley. she's chairing this meeting of the security council. she just listened patiently and quietly as they called the syria attacks a violation of international law. he also criticized ambassador haley for what he called a cynical show holding up photographs. back in just a minute after a quick break.
. welcome back. as we noted earlier, broad bipartisan support for the most part in congress for the president's decision to launch military strikes in syria last night. members of congress also want an explanation from the president about what comes next. here's seth, democrat in massachusetts, an iraq war veteran. >> this is the simplest thing. throwing a few tomahawk missiles
is an important message to send but what comes next gets harder. when young americans start losing their lives, when we have conflicts in the air space with russia, this is going to get more complicated very quickly. that's why we need to have a clear straej. strategy. >> if this is a one off, does it go away. >> as the constitution gives congress the power to declare war but there's also reserve from the commander in chief everything short of war and there is a big, big difference between the two. it is a helpful exercise to go to congress even though every president since nixon has said the war powers acts is unconstitutional, it's a helpful exercise because it really does force a national conversation on what your goal is here and what your strategy should be for achieving it. >> yet the congress has shied away from that conversation because of the unpopularity at the end of the iraq war and afghanistan took so long. congress really going to game up
on this one? >> it's a hard thing to do and sometimes they don't like to do hard thing. look, we are a country almost famously schozophrenic. so making the case for exactly what you want to do i think is important and increasing your probability of success because you know what you're goals are and you have political buy in from perhaps both sides to keep it going until you reach success, whatever this looks like. >> john mccain, marco rubio, lindsey graham, they're already pushing for more. >> no question about it but they're also pushing for the conversation. the question is will everybody else have this conversation? y yemen, somalia, syria, iraq, it is pure political cowardice that has has not been a debate to fight isis over the last couple years. candid members of congress will
acknowledge that. they don't win politically if they have that debate but it's a debate that they should have and a debate that frankly the country should take part in if they're going to be sending military options into battle. >> what's the president's perspective, from one take i'm the president and these are my decisions as long as they're short of war. the other one is if you have these conversation, that means you're buying in and you're sharing the political risks. >> it will be interesting to see how many people saying you need our permission to do this but privately saying we don't want to vote on it. but i do think when you look at this first action, we have seen this ceo president sort of look at one thing that he could do unilaterally at a time when his other priorities have been ham strung by having to deal with congress. this is a moment where he was briefed by advisers and it was his decision and he could act or do something about a situation. everything else gets much
harder. >> little hectic in here. lots still going on at the united states station security council. president sitting across the table from the chinese president. might hear more from that. we're done for today. see you back here monday morning. after a quick break wolf blitzer picks up our coverage. and seconds... how about adding a third? we think there's a bajillion ways to measure success. and whether you have hundreds or millions... we think you deserve the financial freedom to sleep like this at night. this is the new success story. and at t-i-a-a, we're with you. start today at t-i-a-a dot org. whole blends by garnier. restore dry hair with replenishing care.
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. hello i'm wolf blitzer. it's 1:00 p.m. here in washington. 8:00 p.m. in aleppo. wherever you're watching from around the world, thanks very much for joining us. up first breaking news. there are new developments in syria right now following that u.s. military air strike. president trump ordered the strike in response to the horrific chemical weapons attack just a little while ago. the white house released this photo of the president consulting with his national security team after the strike was launched. right now members of the senate are getting a closed door