tv CNN Newsroom With Brooke Baldwin CNN April 7, 2017 11:00am-12:01pm PDT
hi there. i'm brooke baldwin. you're watching cnn. breaking news today, russia outraged. china calling for diplomacy. britain showing support. the world today is reacting as president trump launches his first military offensive while doing an about-face on his views on syria and on president bashar al assad. the white house just released this photo showing the moments after president trump decided to strike against syria. this is a first for the u.s. government and a response to syria's use of chemical weapons against its own civilians, according to u.s. officials. u.s. warships in the eastern
mediterranean launched 59 tomahawk cruise missiles against a syrian air base. we just received this russian drone showing the impact of the u.s. attack. this is the actual airfield that u.s. officials say was home to the warplanes that carried out the chemical attack killing dozens earlier this week. for several hours now, the united nations have been in an emergency meeting and moments ago the u.s. ambassador to the u.n., nikki haley, condemned syria as well as russia and iran. >> the united states took a very measured step last night. we are prepared to do more. but we hope that will not be necessary. it is time for all civilized nations to stop the horrors that are taking place in syria and demand a political solution. >> we have two senior
correspondents standing by to cover this story. i have our senior international correspondent ben wedeman near the syrian/turkey border. barbara starr at the pentagon is also joining us. barbara, the u.s. military is now trying to figure out if russia was complicit, had any sort of knowledge in this chemical attack. what do you know? >> that's right, brook. two u.s. military officials briefed reporters a short time ago answering questions on this very subject. and what they are telling us is, while there is no evidence at this point, in fact, they will investigate any evidence before them that the russians might have known what was going on that there might be russian complicity at this point in the syrian chemical weapons effort. what they are saying is a couple of key points. at that airfield, there was a russian aviation unit. those pilots would have known about every mission taking off from that airfield. what could they have known about
the mission that attacked in idlib province that killed so many in what would they have known about the chemical weapons at the site of the syrian air base because the chemical weapons were stored in a very specific way. so what did the russians know about what was going on there? what did the russians know about the continuation of the syrian chemical weapons program? one of the officials say we, the u.s., will now more aggressively investigate the syrian chemical weapons program but let's be clear, this is not a surprise. the syrian regime has been engaging in some of these attacks for months now. we've seen them use chlorine. we've seen them use suspected sarin agent. this is not a surprise to the world. the pentagon saying that the u.s. will now more aggressively investigate it but the world has seen this movie before. to use some of the phrases that
we're hearing here in washington. so, yes, there will be an investigation. they will look for russian complicity but underneath all of this. >> barbara, thank you. ben, tell me exactly what was hit. >> it was this base in homs in central syria which is where the pentagon believes the planes used to hit at 6:30 in the morning were used. of course, that strike leaving more than 80 people dead. the problem with the strike, of
course, is it has raised the expectations of many that this is the beginning of a broad american effort to bring down the assad regime, which may be a bit of a rash conclusion to be drawn. now, the free syrian army, the supposedly moderate rebel opposition to the syrian government has put out a statement telling president trump, don't stop here. and also the turkish president, erdogan, who has long been a proponent of harsher measures against the missile regime says that the strike on syria was positive but not enough. he says i hope it will be the beginning of an operation against the syrian regime. so high expectations. now, it's not altogether clear if the trump administration is actually going to go any further than what we saw last night. >> right. that is one of the questions. we'll get into all of that next here with my panel.
ben, thank you. ben wedeman and my thanks to barbara starr. president obama's military offensive in syria was against isis. president trump's strike was against the leader and regime of syria. under the obama white house, the u.s. was leading a coalition of nations. currently the u.s. is going it alone. and under president obama, the u.s. was working with russia to attack the common enemy of isis but under president trump, thursday night's launches have many concern that the u.s. may be entering a proxy war against russia. so i have fareed zakaria here with me in new york, retired naval commander christopher harmer is with us who is now with the institute for the study of war who said back in 2013 what the u.s. could do to degrade the syrian military
force and nick paton walsh. fareed, let me start with you, just bigger picture, when you hear president trump's actions, they've been widely praised by both republicans and democrats and how do you see the strike? >> i think that's exactly right. trump was willing to do risk a small incremental military strike and not worry too much about the spillover and the consequences in a way that stayed in president obama's hand. but the larger issue actually is the one that you put very nicely on the screen there, which is that this is a complete reversal of trump's original poll tea toward the region, which was he kept saying, our goal is isis, our enemy is isis. we should be focused on defeating isis. that means collaborating with the russians.
that means keeping our eye on the prize, which is isis. he's now moved to something which, in those terms, is kind of a distraction. it's not entirely clear how it helps or hurts and a lot of people have argued that by attacking the assad regime, you're helping isis. after all, the biggest opponent to the assad regime is isis. ted cruz had denounced obama's plan to attack the assad regime by saying you're turning america into the air force for isis. so that contradiction or complication is one we haven't figured out yet. so tactically, as everyone is pointing out, this is both a win because it's a limited contained strike. i think it also upholds an important norm. it shows that president trump is bold and willing to take some risks but strategically it does complicate the reality of our position in syria. are we now determined to get rid of assad? if that is the case, are we in
an alliance with the jihadis? >> let's put that question to the commander, whether or not the u.s. -- that should be the next step to get rid of assad. commander, the question to you, how do you see it? >> it's a great point by fareed zakaria that tactically this was an easy kill for us. it doesn't move, there's no people there. we told the russians upfront we were coming in. that's the easiest of easy operations against the softest of soft targets. tactically, yes, let's congratulate ourselves on an easy win. strategically, nothing has changed. if anything, things are more complicated. we have to accept ownership for what happens after that. my position is, bashar al assad is the original sin in syria. part of the reason that isis and al qaeda have been so successful in syria is because assad is such a brutal totalitarian dictator. i was in the new york studio
years ago talking to nick paton walsh about this same thing. 3 1/2 years, nothing has changed for the better. so if the trump administration wants to bite this problem off, it's a lot bigger than simply launching tomahawks at one relatively obscure air base. >> well, fast forward 3 1/2 years later, i have nick paton walsh still part of this conversation. just bringing in the whole russia factor, keep in mind the biggest troop presence outside of russia is syria. i was listening to the comments at the united nations, the envoy said, quote, this was a flagrant violation of international law and an act of aggression. how does this affect u.s./russia relations? >> it causes them -- they did risk potentially catching russian personnel in those tomahawk strikes. bear in mind, too, 3 1/2 years ago we were talking about strikes against regime military
targets that if done effectively, may have started losing ground very fast to rebels and that could have been a success and that was part of the rationale that some felt. fast forward now 3 1/2 years, the russians are everywhere and one possible comeback from all of this is possibly bashar al assad, massively underestimated the white house's response to the chemical weapons attack. they did respond and maybe they thought they weren't going to. perhaps a possible consequence of this now is he's definitely put the russians in a corner and moscow has to stay alongside damascus now and they've been humiliated by the audacity of the strikes. you have to bear in mind, you may see a comeback. this may not be over and the reason obama didn't want to get sucked in. you strike one, you get hit
back, strike again and you are drawn into a broader war. the russians now and even their rhetoric is close to assad and how long does the kremlin want to be in this fight. certainly at this stage it's tough to get out. >> let me go back to a point you made and, commander, let me ask you. the possibility of retaliation? >> yeah. there's a number of escalating moves. they have launched attacks against the u.s. in the past using hezbollah and shiites. iran has ways to respond if they want on behalf of the assad regime. one last point to nick's earlier point, 3 1/2 years ago, they were on the verge of nonsurvival. we could kill all of the syrian air force and it wouldn't make much difference to assad as long
as they are operating on his behalf. >> and just adding to that, we heard ambassador nikki haley saying that we are prepared to do more. what she means by that, fareed, we don't yet know. but if you're secretary of state rex tillerson who said the fate of assad is up to the syrian people, now he came out yesterday saying russia -- either russia has been complicit or russia has been incompetent. he's supposed to go to moscow next week to hold meetings. what tone does he take? what message does he bring? >> the crucial question is exactly the one you pointed to with nikki haley's comment. strategically, i think, we're all trying to figure out, okay, the strike happened. it does seem to be a one-off. has it changed the strategy? the strategy that the trump -- >> u.s. strategy? >> u.s. strategy. the trump administration came in saying exactly what you're saying. isis is our problem. assad is not. >> yes. >> it seems to have changed, in
a sense, back to the obama policy which is, we want to get rid of assad but this is now the trump administration so if you want to get rid of assad, are you willing to stay the course and put military power to bear? are you willing to do more strikes? and if you are, i think that the scenarios that the other guests have outline ready entirely plausible. there's going to be pushback and backlash, not just from the russians, potentially from the syrians, from the iranian allies. remember, there are a bunch of american soldiers in the field in syria, in iraq. trump has actually doubled the number in syria. there are potential targets, not easy to get to but potential targets and, most importantly, i think the big picture for the american people is to ask, have we entered the syrian civil war? have we entered the syrian civil war on one side that is against assad and what does all of that mean? are we in it for the long haul? are we willing to commit more troops and resources?
are we in some kind of alliance with jihadis in syria? that is going to shape a lot of what president trump has to deal with and the one thing i can assure you is president trump is now going to be dealing well syria a lot more than he might have one week ago. he might have thought he had a limited battle against isis. he's now in the middle of a very complicated civil war. >> fareed zakaria, thank you so much. we'll see you on sunday with all of this and commander harmer, thank you. nick paton walsh, appreciate your time here as well. the dramatic shift by president trump and his administration. is he moving away from that whole america first position? remember the other day he said he's not the president of the world, he's the president of the united states. what does that mean for the white house and policy moving forward? also ahead, was this an act of war? my next guest, u.s. congresswoman man says yes, indeed, it was. she's calling on speaker ryan to bring congress back for a debate
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you're watching cnn. i'm brooke baldwin. president trump's opinion about how to deal with syria has evolved. if you look back at trump's tweets back in 2013 when there was a chemical attack in syria, 1400 people were killed, you will find his recommendations to president obama, "if the u.s. attacks syria and hits the wrong targets killing civilians, there will be worldwide hell to pay. stay away and fix broken u.s." he then again tweets days later, "again to our foolish leader. don't attack syria. if you do, many very bad things will happen and from that fight the u.s. gets nothing." so cnn political director david chalian joining me as well as cnn analyst gloria borger. gloria, this is a president who tried to install a travel ban
against syrian refugees and then their images of their suffering motivated him to act, it seems. do you think this is a fundamental shift in president trump's and america first mindset? >> i don't know. you can get whiplash if you look at donald trump's positions just a week ago, much less in rex tiy saying, you know, that bashar al assad's future should be left up to the syrian people. we are now getting a completely different message from him. nikki haley today threatening another strike if chemical weapons were used again in syria. president described as an isolationist as many is suddenly making john mccain and lindsey graham and hillary clinton happy with his strike in syria. >> who would have thought?
>> i'm not sure we actually know what the president's policy is. even regarding syria. does he want to take out assad? is this a one-off? i think we just have to wait and hear from him specifically on it, which is what congress has been squawking about. they'd like to know. >> you mentioned hillary clinton. david, we're going to turn some sound around. hillary clinton was speaking at an event in houston and she noted a point i had made, i know a lot of trump critics have made about, he doesn't want to allow women and children in because of this refugee ban but he appears to feel real compassion to the horrible images that we saw. hillary clinton said, "i also hope the administration will recognize we cannot in one breath speak about protecting syrian babies and in the next close american doors to them." does she have a point? >> that was obviously directly to the president. he was the one who used the word "babies" and her daughter
chelsea clinton was tweeting about this, too. there's no doubt there's some, you know, logical sort of thinking, disconnect there that his critics are exploiting. but i think we should separate it out here because you were zeroing in on the most fundamental and important question here. yeah, he made those tweets in 2013 and we can expose his hypocrisies and positions all the time for political purposes. donald trump was once a pro-choice democrat not that long ago. >> right. >> so for him to just move for political purposes, critique obama and then not, it's one thing. there's a fundamental question here and gloria is right, we don't really know the answer to it, which is, i'm much more intrigued by a year on the campaign trail and even in the last several months of putting forth an america first policy, even as recently as days ago saying i'm not president of the world, i am president of america and then to be so persuaded by these pictures to fundamentally change that world view, whether
that is a permanent change because the circumstances fit to do a divisive action, it's something that we have to pay attention to going forward that's a totally different world view that he sold to the american public throughout the campaign. >> it raises the question, quite honestly, of whether donald trump has a fixed and firm world view. america first is a great slogan and it certainly worked during the campaign. but what's his view now? he's flexible, capable of change. that's a good thing, not a bad thing. but when it comes to -- >> are we about to find out? >> well, that's the point. when it comes to foreign policy, and you have allies and the world is watching you, i think i'd like to know where you're coming from, as would many people in the congress and in the rest of the world.
>> and as the world gets -- quickly, as the world gets to learn donald trump and they see now that the images that came out of syria were able to flip him 180 degrees, it begs the question of how people around the world or people in congress or people inside his west wing now are going to be able to provide him data if they think he is so moveable in such a dramatic way. >> uh-huh. david and gloria, thank you on that. we're going to talk to members of congress about how they feel about what might be motivating him and how maleable he might be. thank you both so much. coming up next, almost immediately after words of the strikes in syria, members of congress were telling the president not so fast. does military action in syria, should that require approval from congress? congresswoman barbara lee will
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so many people in washington, d.c., democrats, republicans, they're applauding president trump's decision to launch the tomahawk missiles into syria. some lawmakers are calling it impulsive, dangerous and even unlawful. but is it an act of war? that's how my next guest is characterizing last night's missile launch against a syrian air base. democratic congresswoman barbara lee says, "if president trump
wants to escalate u.s. involvement in yet another war, he should immediately send a new authorize to congress and speaker ryan must bring it to the house floor for debate and vote without delay." congressman l congressman -- congresswoman lee is with me now. tell me why you believe this was an act of war. >> this is an act of war because any time a country bombs a sovereign nation with no authority, no legal authority, that constitutes an act of war. and here in the united states, first of all, we must insist that members of congress do their job and if, in fact, we're going to engage in warfare, we need an authorization and a vote, an up or down vote, because this is our job as members of congress. and let me say, my heart goes out to the syrian people, the use of chemical weapons.
that's barbaric. we cannot tolerate that. one surgical strike is not going to stop that. we need to get back into washington, d.c., and vote up or down on where we go once we know what the president's plan is. >> there's one argument that had to be made because of the atrocities that were made in idlib when then president obama decided to go before congress as you're requesting before hitting syria and faced so much resistance and couldn't get a vote. no one wanted to own the potentially next iraq. how would you respond to that? how do you say no? you are passionate for these young lives lost. >> these are very tough decisions. that's why we're elected and why the american people should demand that speaker ryan call for a debate and authorization.
you know, for many years, many of us have called for an increase in our numbers in terms of refugees. the president is putting a ban on refugees from syria so those kinds of contradictions are very apparent. one surgical strike is not going to stop these barbaric acts. we need to have a full plan and it has to be international in scope. we have to work with the bodies to come up with a political solution. we need to address issues as it relates to russia and its complicity with, you know, assad and how they are conducting this horrific damage and carnage in syria and so the only way we can come up with a plan for a political settlement with the united states involved is through a debate in congress and a vote. the american people deserve
that. >> i understand. and president talked about how syria was the main issue that really, really haunted him and, again, this is a strike that has received praise from john mccains and lindsey graham on the other side of the spectrum to hillary clinton. let me play what she said when asked about syria. >> i really believe that we should have and still should take out his airfields and prevent him from being able to use them to bomb innocent people and drop sarin gas on them. >> she said that before the world learned what the white house had done. do you, congresswoman lee, give president trump any credit for having the guts to do something that president obama couldn't quite bring himself to do? >> i don't think it's about having guts. i think one surgical strike is not going to stop assad from
using chemical weapons, nor is it going to stop him from wreaking havoc on the syrian people. what we need to do, and i will say this again, is come together with the international community and the united nations and come up with a comprehensive strategy because it's only a political solution that's going to address this. most military experts will tell you and have said that there's -- >> but we've been waiting for that. >> i'm sorry? >> for people to tomorrcome tog >> yes. we have to insist on that. that's why we're asking speaker ryan to call us back into washington, d.c., and put forth an authorization to use force and vote up or down and that way the public will understand the costs and consequences of what we are doing. >> congresswoman barbara lee, thank you for your time. i appreciate it. >> glad to be with you, brook. >> thank you. straight ahead, the syrian army is responding to strikes
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way. and you warn whether it's a larger campaign against assad. when will we know the answer? >> i hope that we will hear from secretary of state by mcmaster and jim mattis about what is the actual plan for syria because one set of strikes doesn't make a strategy. there's a universal feeling that it was the right thing to do the use of fours and congress has to come forward with an organization of military force once a president has produced military action like this now. that's been more honored in the
breach. this was a strike on the assad regime. the force that has been used in the last decade and a half has been directed at al qaeda and its allies. you can't say that assad is an ally of al qaeda or isis in any meaningful way. so i think the time has really come for people in congress, republican president, republican house, republican senate, a president who is doing these things for a vote to happen and for a public discussion about what the best strategy is. it shouldn't just be the trump administration's strategy. it should be the american people's strategy. >> what about iran and russia? >> i think the russians are clearly -- the russians have very few allies in the world and assad is one of them. they have syrian territory and it's not surprising that they are going to make all sorts of noises about this is
indefensible. now will they actually do anything, i think that's a whole other matter. we've seen the agreement go away which is unfortunate and actually protects russians as well as americans. but i didn't see anything in the short term of some real russian response, some real iranian response because, you know, do they really want to get into a real shooting war with the united states? no. >> but what about isis? just quickly before i let you go, when i was talking to fareed at the top of the show, is this in a sense helping the enemy being isis? i mean, how might this embolden isis? >> at the end of the day, isis came into being as an anti-assad outfit. this is going to be hard for them to say this is against our interests. isis has its own problems right now. it's lost 50% of its territory in iraq and very substantial amounts in syria. i don't see this really having much difference for them. isis has its own problems. we've already conducted something like 8,000 strikes in syria against mostly isis
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you're watching our continuing coverage of the strikes in syria. nikki haley speaking with this warning. >> the united states took a very measured step last night. we are prepared to do more but we hope that will not be necessary. it is time for all civilized nations to stop the horrors that are taking place in syria and demand a political solution.
>> a lot of reaction and praise coming from both sides across capitol hill. republican senator lankford of oklahoma has been calling on the trump administration to act against assad for a while. let me bring him in now. senator james lankford joining me from washington. senator, welcome. >> thank you. >> so you is up port, sir, last night's military action. let me ask you this, did it go far enough for you? >> it's not far enough because assad is still there. it is important that the united states is actually engaging in the region and for the leaders in the region, for the last couple of years, the united states has been disengaged. if we're going to remove assad, we have to show that they are there, paying attention, engaged and pushing him out. >> what do you make of the u.s. military investigating whether or not russian was complicit. they are looking to see if this russian warplane actually dropped a bomb on this hospital
in idlib to cover up that chemical attack. how concerning is that for you and what should be the next step? >> there's no question that assad is the proxy of iran and of russia. the only reason assad is still there is because iran and russia are propping him up. russia is specifically on the ground in the same area at the same base, where their chemical weapons are stored and launched from and delivered back to that spot. it's impossible for me to believe that russia was not at least aware if not complicit in this. russia needs to be able to confirm not just to us but to the world, russia confirmed in the world's eyes that they helped assad remove all of his chemical weapons and dispose of them and now we see they are still there and still at a base where russia also resides. >> as americans are trying to understand president trump's motivations and how he views military action in syria, he
tweeted 24 times in 2013 saying don't attack. and you have changed your mind a bit as well. i just want to understand how. in 2013, you said to a meeting of your constituents, i remain opposed to u.s. military intervention in sear yaz civyri war. a limited missile strike will only weaken our hand in the middle east when assad claim as year from now that he beat the rebels and the americans. in 2013, 1400 men, women and children were killed. help me understand, senator, what changed your mind. >> so i can't get into the mind of president trump. he'll get a chance to articulate that. but i can assure you that in that conversation and multiple others, it was the frustration with the obama administration and they brought out a very limited focus, the authorization for the use of military force that they presented had all of these time limits and boundaries and limitations on it and my question was, if we're going to
engage, we need to engage with a purpose, to be able to both diplomatically remove assad and -- >> but the pictures were the same. i understand, senator lankford, but the pictures were the same. 1400 men, women and children poisoned, gassed, i think that's what some americans are having a hard time understanding, if not then -- >> i would have no issue then if not now. if president obama carried out a limited strike like this, i would have supported it. it's the same question i'm asking right now of president trump. you did a limited strike. you stated that america is in the game now. now it's the now what. it's his responsibility to be able to bring a request for an authorization of use of military force to the congress so the american people can get engaged and determine exactly how this will be done and then the president to be able to carry that out. my position on this is the same in the sense that i want a diplomatic solution. everyone wants a diplomatic solution. if we're going to engage, we can't just limit engage and then walk out. the same is true then as it was
then. if assad can say i beat the americans, i lived through their bombardment and i'm still standing here, it weakens our position in the world. >> senator lankford, thank you for your time. >> thank you. straight ahead here on cnn, a global reaction to this massive missile strike in syria widens. cnn is learning that the pentagon is investigating possible involvement on behalf of russia in this week's chemical attack killing dozens. those new details, next. you're watching cnn. r your view. so i just switched to geico. 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. ♪ ♪
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what he used as a weapon. the attack happened today on the city's busiest shopping street. at least two people have been killed. many more injured. and people obviously ran for their lives. witnesses described shoppers just weeping in a total state of shock. swedish parliament was placed on lockdown. subway service came to a halt. authorities warned people to stay home and avoid the area. erin mclaughlin is in london watching the developments in stockholm and i understand there's been an arrest? >> reporter: that's right. this development is within the last hour. stockholm police saying they have arrested an individual in the stockholm area, though they have not given out much more information than that. not saying whether or not the individual currently under arrest in connection with this grisly attack is the person of interest. they were referencing earlier in the day a still image taken from
surveillance footage of an escalator near where the attack happened. that still image showing a man wearing a hoodie getting off of the escalator. we're also getting new information from the beer truck company in question. according to the company's spokesperson, a masked man approached the driver of the truck as he was off-loading beer at a local restaurant, hopped into the driver's seat and simply drove away and, of course, we know what happens next, according to eyewitnesss, plowing through that crowded pedestrian area, driving straight into a garden shop killing at least two people and injuring scores more. brooke? >> erin mclaughlin, thank you so much. keep us apprised of what is happening in sweden. awful for those people there. thank you. as we continue on, you're
watching cnn's special coverage here of these tomahawk strikes in syria. i'm brooke baldwin. here's a quote. "we are prepared to do more." those words spoken just moments ago from the u.s. ambassador to the united nations, nikki haley, signaling to the world that the united states could act again after president trump launched the nation's first direct military action against syria. >> reporter: assad did this because he thought he could get away with it. he thought he could get away with it because he knew russia would have his back. that changed last night. the united states took a very measured step last night we are prepared to do more. but we hope that will not be necessary. it's time for all civilized nations to stop the horrors taking place in syria and demand a political solution. >> i also wanted to show you