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  State of the Union With Jake Tapper  CNN  April 9, 2017 6:02am-6:21am PDT

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rces. it's a very busy morning around the world. let's welcome the united states ambassador to the united nations, nikki haley. ambassador haley thanks so much for joining us. you said on friday that the united states is quote prepared to do more in syria but i want to understand what the threshold might be for additional military action. it would be the use of chemical weapons or could even a conventional attack on civilians be the trigger. >> what happened this week was really one of the president's finest hours. to sit and watch all of the conversations and how he listened to each and every member of his security council and asked all the right questions. he wanted to know exactly what facts and evidence was. he wanted to know what the options were, what the risks were. and the political strategy and solution side of it. after all of that he made a very, you know, strong decision and i think it was one that was very good for the world. what i can tell you now is, this
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is how he responded to the chemical attack in syria. i was trying to give warning and notice to the members of the security council and the international community that he won't stop here. if he needs to do more he'll do more. really now what happens depends on how everyone responds to what happened in syria and make sure that we start moving towards a political solution and we start finding peace in that area. so i think a lot of people need to step up. the united states will continue to watch and be active and we'll see what happens. >> so further military action is possible. i'm wondering is the chemical weapons attacks have been going on since 2013 but far more syrians have been killed by conventional weapons, barrel bombs and the like. might that also be a trigger? president trump clearly said the use of chemical weapons is what crossed the line for him. but is that the only line? >> well i can tell you his focus was on fact that innocent
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victims were hurt by terrible regime that was attempted to be covered up by russia or, you know, make excuses for assad by russia, and he said he wasn't going put up with it. to see the images and the pictures and the horror of that act knowing it was a violation of the chemical weapons convention, knowing it was a violation of the u.n. security council resolutions, he said this is enough. >> this is a departure and i'm not second guessing the decision, as i said it's not the first chemical weapons attack, not the worst chemical weapons take. during the campaign president trump warned against getting involved militarily in syria. take a listen. >> not that big of an area. the air space is limited. we go to start world war iii over injury. >> he was worried about starting world war iii over syria. why is that no long ear concern and why was the 2013 chemical weapons attack which was deadlier not a trigger for him
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in terms of the principle of an action in syria? >> well he wasn't president in 2013. >> he opposed it. he opposed action. >> i don't know what his thought process was then. i can tell you what his thought process this was week, he won't condone chemical weapons use ever. what you saw was he wasn't going to just say it he was going to act. what we've seen at the united nations is a huge sigh of relief. they are just so thankful that the united states led on this issue. and we called out russia because we needed to. we put iran on notice because that, we need to get that influence out of there and we told syria we're not going to watch this any more. what the president chooses to do, i hope what iran sees and syria sees and russia sees is that this is a president that's not afraid to act. and that he does expect to move towards a political solution and they have to show genuine willingness to do that. >> he's not concerned any more about this being a potential
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quagmire about this potentially starting world war iii. >> of the conversations i had this week he knew what the risks were, he knew what the situation was, he looked at the history of the situation and he decided. i think his decision was right and i think you can see that from the international community. they all fully support it. >> on thursday the secretary of state rex tillerson said there's no quote role for assad in governing syria. take a listen. >> assad's role in the future is uncertain, clearly. with the acts he has taken, it would seem there would be no role for him to govern the syrian people. >> so ten days ago you said get ago sad out of syria would no longer be a priority for the united states. obviously since then was the chemical weapons attack. i'm trying to figure out is regime change in syria now the official policy of the united states? >> so there's multiple priorities. it's getting assad out is not the only right. so what we're trying to do is obviously defeat isis. secondly we don't see a peaceful
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syria with assad in there. thirdly get the iranian influence out. then finally move towards a political solution because at the end of the day this is a complicated situation. there are no easy answers and a political solution will have to happen but we know that it is not going to be -- there's not any sort of option where a political solution will happen with assad at the head of the regime. if you look at his actions, if you look at the situation it will be hard to see a government that's peaceful and stable with assad. >> of course it's hard to but is at any time position of the trump administration that he cannot be ruler of syria if i more, regime change is the policy? >> well, regime change is something that we think is going to happen because all of the parties are going to see that assad is not the leader that needs to be taking place for syria. what you're seeing this isn't about policy or not. this is about thoughts. when you look at the thoughts, there is no political solution. that any of us can see with assad at the lead.
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and so i don't think that's something for the united states to decide. that's something the entire international community has decided that it's going hard pressed to see assad in that leadership role. so you're going to see the president very much will watch this. we're all going to keep calling out the international community and asking the home push for a political solution. we're going to continue to call out bad actors when they do something like this. you'll see this administration act when they think it's appropriate. >> you've talked about the possibility of further military action. as you know president trump used to believe congressional approval was needed for any kind of military strike in syria. i know you're a fan of his tweets. here's one. the president must guest congressional approval from congress before he attacks syria. big mistake if not. if the possibility of further military action is there shoufld the trump administration come to congress and get the specific authorization to use force? >> well it depends on the action. i can tell you he worked very
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closely with leaders in congress. all of the cabinet members. you know first you have to give huge kudos to general mattis and the military for how they handled this so flawlessly. he worked with general kelly, he was on the hill. the vice president was on the hill. they stayed in communication with leaders of congress. that's what you'll see this administration do. the only surprise is to the international community. we'll focus on work everybody. we see this very much as a team. the president has acted like this is a team with all of his cabinet members but also with members of congress. so i think he'll continue to work with them when it comes to actions like this. >> is it fair to say the president will keep congress informed. there's no plan to seek an fshl authorization for use of military force. >> he's very much said he wanted to keep congress informed and a part of what was happening as it was happening. you have to ask him on the congressional thoughts. >> speaking of congress, mitch mcconnell said on friday he
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would look favorably on stepped up sanctions against russia, on iran and others who support the assad regime in syria. does president trump want tougher sanctions on russia and iran? >> i think it's conversations that we'll be having and have started to have going toward. you have to look at the situation. here was, you saw this terrible tragedy on innocent people, a lot of them children. and the first reaction from russia wasn't how horrible. it wasn't how could they do this? it wasn't how did this happen? it was assad didn't do it. assad didn't do it. why was that the reaction? so all of that is in play. that's why you're seeing the investigation on russia opinion that's why you're seeing the fact we know the evidence on assad. we've seen it. we know exactly what happened. so we're calling them out. i don't think anything is off the table at this point. what you'll see is the strong leadership, you're going to continue to see the united
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states act when we need to act. we'll have the backs of our allies. we need to see our allies have our back which happened in the united nations this week especially lepd by the british counterparts. you'll see us continue to make sure we're doing everything we can for the safety of the united states but safety internationally. we think this was not only a national security issue this was an international security issue. and i think the president wanted to passaic that known and make that response well pointed out. >> ambassador haley stay right there. we'll take a quick break. we'll be right back. i'm in. 7,000 players. our plays are a little unorthodox. but to beat the big boys, you need smarter ways to save people money. we know what you want from a financial company and we'll stop at... nothing to make sure you get it. one, two... and we mean nothing. ♪ ♪
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or the it platform that powers millions of ecards every day for one of the largest greeting card companies. businesses count on communication, and communication counts on centurylink. welcome back to "state of the union". i'm jake tapper. white house officials say these are the specific images that president trump says convinced him to launch an attack against syrian president bashar al assad after a chemical attack on civilians that killed 80 people including many children opinion these photographs were invoked by u.n. ambassador nikki haley in a moving address to the
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united nations this week. we're back with united nations ambassador nikki haley. as you know, the russians are denying that assad had anything to do with it. in fact a spokesman for russian defense ministry said this weekend the u.s. has no prove of chemical weapons at the airbase that was attacked by the u.s. military and he said quote it's all looking a bit too much like colin powell's test tube white powder. will the trump administration produce the evidence that you just referred to? >> first of all, it cracks me up russia can say those twhings a straight face. truly it's amazing they continue to cover for assad. very telling. it's not putting russia in a good light at all in the international community. what we've seen in our meetings this week we were told of the evidence. we saw the evidence. the president saw the evidence. all of that is classified. when you look at director mike
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pompeo he's been looking at his counterparts and sharing the information he has. the international community has spoken and russia is out there on an island saying assad didn't do it. everyone vessels clear and knows assad did. >> will congress be brought in on the loop. >> you have to ask the president that. basically the president just wants to be in communication with congress on everything that is happening. and so his goal is to make sure they are always informed of what he's thinking and doing. >> you alluded to earlier russia trying to help assad cover thunder. what to we know for a fact about russia's possible involvement in the weapons attack? obviously they have military, our military presence all over the country, there are reports that the pentagon is investigating whether or not russia may have bombed a hospital to help cover up evidence. what do we know for a fact? >> i think we know for a fact russia needs provide answers. when you look at the situation,
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are we going to -- russia has got to tell us which one it is. either they knew that there were chemical weapons and they knew there was going to be chemical weapons used and they just hid it from the international community, or they are being played for fools by assad by him having chemical weapons and they are justin dark and they don't know anything about it. don't forget russia was the one that took the charge and said they were going to make sure there were no chemical weapons. and that no chemical weapons would be used. so they now have to answer for this. how can they with a straight face cover for assad. because if they are covering for assad then what are they saying? they are saying by covering for assad they knew it was there or incompetent by having chemical weapons in the first place. there's a lot of answers that need to come from russia. it's good that secretary tillerson is going to russia this next week. there will be a lot of answers coming out of that meeting. that's when the president will make his decision. >> president trump made his decision in part because of the
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images he saw from the chemical attack, the beautiful babies in his language that were killed. how do you square that with president trump also banning refugees coming in from syria? i understand wanting more intense venting. i certainly get that. but if we're talking about beautiful babies being slaughtered why not allow syrian refugees or children and maybe their mothers to come in after they've been vetted. >> his focus has always been from the very beginning and i've seen this and witnessed this in multiple occasions. he very much believes in the responsibility of keeping americans safe. that's very strong with him. that's something he wants to do. so when this refugee situation came up, he actually challenged the community and said, and challenged his team and said prove to me you can vet properly so we can keep american people safe. in these areas they said they couldn't vet properly. they said they didn't have enough information. you have a president who won't
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risk american lives and have that threat when it can't properly be vetted. you also see a president who is compassionate, who is very much not is going to put up with violations and chemical weapons use. he saw that this week very much as not only a national security risk but also an international security risk. >> you don't think syrian children pose a risk to the american people? >> well syrian children have to come with syrian adults and you don't know. it's hard to know based on the vetting process. that's unfortunate we can't find that out. hopefully we'll get to point to we can. but as you heard there was a refugee on the news yesterday that basically said, look, he's in the united states. but he's waiting for everything to be worked out in syria because he wants to go home. he wants to be with his family. at the end of the day we have to remember syrians don't want to live somewhere else, they want to be home, they want to be with their family, with their loved ones. that's the focus of why the air strike happened this time which
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is to try to move that political solution, move any of these careless acts that are just meant to cause harm not on the people that they claim are isis but on actually the innocent civilians that are in the area. you're seeing the president handle both of those responsibly and he's keeping americans safe and trying to do what hean