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tv   Situation Room With Wolf Blitzer  CNN  April 11, 2017 2:00pm-3:01pm PDT

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and twitter @jaketapper. tweet the show @theleadcnn and that's it for today. i'm jake tapper and i now turn you over to wolf blitzer. he is in "the situation room." thanks for watching. happening now, breaking news. russian cover-up. the pentagon says there is no court the syrian regime is behind the deadly gas attack on civilians, and the u.s. strike was meant to deter further chemical attacks. u.s. officials can't say if russia was complicit in the gas attack, but they do accuse russia of trying to cover up what happened. showdown with putin. secretary of state rex tillerson arrives in moscow slamming russia's role in syria as russian president vladimir putin doubles down, defending his support for the syrian regime and criticizing the u.s. amid a war of words, will the two men meet? offensive comparison. white house press secretary sean spicer says even hitler didn't
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use chemical weapons and is forced to make a heytvelty -- a hasty clarification saying that the nazis used a poisonous gas at their death camps. and north korea says the deployment of a uss aircraft carrier as an act aggression and if provoked it's ready for any mode of war, including nuclear war. in a cnn exclusive, we'll take you inside north korea. i'm wolf blitzer. you're in "the situation room." breaking news. the pentagon says it's very clear the syrian regime planned and executed the chemical weapons attack which killed dozens of civilians, including many children. it says the u.s. strike on a syrian air base was meant to deter further chemical attacks and warns the regime will pay a very stiff price if it uses those weapons again.
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a war of words between the united states and russia is playing out as secretary of state rex tillerson begins a visit to moscow. before he arrived, tillerson hit russia's role in syria while the kremlin has been criticizing the u.s. u.s. officials say there's no definitive proof of russian collusion in the chemical weapons attack, but they say moscow is trying to cover it up. white house press secretary sean spicer stumbled today when trying to shame russia over its alliance with the syrian regime. he argued that even hitler, quote, didn't sink to using chemical weapons. spicer was quickly forced to clarify his remarks given the nazis used poison gas during the holocaust. and north korea is calling the deployment of a u.s. aircraft carrier battle group an act of aggression and is warning of a nuclear strike if it's provoked. president trump says that kim jong-un's regime is looking for trouble, but the white house says the north koreans do not yet have the capability to
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launch a nuclear attack. i'll talk to the senior democrat on the house armed services committee congressman adam smith of washington. he's standing by live. and our correspondents, analysts and guests are also standing by with full coverage of the day's top stories. our breaking news, the pentagon says it's very clear the syrian regime carried out the chemical weapons attack that killed dozens of people. let's begin with our pentagon correspondent barbara starr. barbara, top officials, they are leaving absolutely no doubt about who is to blame. >> reporter: in this extraordinary press conference, wolf, the top pentagon brass wanted to send several messages. some things were clear. some things were deliberately am big gouss. defense secretary james mattis telling me on that he wanted to be ambigous on whether the u.s. would go after chlorine-filled barrel bombings from assad, but he was ambigous on nothing else. the pentagon top brass not yet ready to say russia what is complicit but definitive on
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bashar al assad's involvement. >> there is no doubt the syrian regime is responsible for the decision to attack and for the attack itself. >> reporter: the u.s. missile strike telling moscow the trump administration will use force and is also not ruling out further military action against assad but hoping that the russians temper their own actions. >> i'm confident the russians will act in their own best interest, and there's nothing in their best interest than to say they want this situation to go out of control. >> reporter: secretary of state rex tillerson arriving in moscow today also laid down a marker. >> i hope that what the russian government concludes is that they have aligned themselves with an unreliable partner in bashar al assad. >> reporter: but russian president purity put calling the missile strike reminiscent of the u.s. invasion of iraq. >> translator: this very much resembles the situation in 2003 and the war in iraq.
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iraq campaign was launched and it finished with the destruction of the country. the growth of the terrorist threat and nothing less than the emergence of isis on the international stage. >> reporter: and warning syrian rebels may have more planned. >> translator: we have information from various sources that this kind of provocation, i can't dal anything other than a provocation, is being prepared for in other regions of syria, too, including the southern suburbs of damascus where they are preparing to drop similar chemicals and then accuse the syrian government of it. >> reporter: but the u.s. says the insurgents don't have sarin and in turn pressing the american case that the russians aware responsibility for the chemical weapons attack. the u.s. intelligence community now investigating how much the russians knew about the attack ahead of time. the u.s. knows there were russian forces at the base, and they likely knew about chemical
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weapons at the base and flight operations happening there. the u.s. also knows a russian drone flew over the hospital treating victims, and an unknown fixed wing aircraft dropped a conventional bomb five hours later trying to destroy evidence. only syrian and russian aircraft fly in the area. so no definitive conclusion yet that it was the russians who were complicit in this. a lot of circumstantial evidence, and what about the syrian air force after the u.s. missile strike? the pentagon now calculates it damaged or destroyed 23 syrian aircraft at that base, about 20% of syria's operating air force. wolf? >> barbara starr at pentagon, thank you. let's go to the white house. our white house correspondent sara murray is on the scene for us. what's the latest there, sara, on russia's role in syria? >> reporter: well, wolf, this white house may not be able to say what russia's role, if any in, that attack was, but they
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were crystal clear on one thing. they do believe russia played a pivotal role in trying to cover up for assad and the syrian regime in the wake of that grisly chemical weapons attack. president donald trump silent for yet another day on what his next move is in syria. in the five days since the president's strike in response to the chemical weapons attack against syrian civilians. >> i ordered a targeted military strike. >> reporter: the trump administration still struggling to clarify how it will respond to future attacks. as questions persist about the role russia may have played. >> thank you all very much. >> reporter: trump refusing to answer questions today about whether his view of russian president vladimir putin has changed. this as a senior administration official accused the russians of waging a campaign of disinformation in the wake of the attack saying russia tried to cover up the syrian regime's culpability. the white house says the
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intelligence community still has not reached a consensus about whether russia had a heads up before the chemical weapons attack. >> there's no consensus within the intelligence community that there was involvement. >> reporter: but a senior administration official appeared to put more pressure on russia today questioning how russian forces could not have had forewarning about the chemical weapons attack if russian forces were interspersed with the syrian troops that planned and carried it out. today white house press secretary sean spicer argued russia is growing increasingly isolated in its defense of syria. >> in this particular case, it's no question that russia is isolated. they have aligned themselves with north korea, syria, iran. it's not exactly a group of countries you're looking to hang out with. >> reporter: but he stumbled when offering up this condemnation of syrian president bashar al assad's cruelty. >> you look -- we didn't use chemical weapons in world war ii, you know. you had a, you know, someone as despicable of hitler who didn't
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even sink to using chemical weapons, so you have to if you're russia ask yourself is this a country and a regime that you want to align yourself with. >> reporter: while many historians believe nazi germ did i did not use chemical weapons on the battlefield in world war ii spicer's comparison appeared to overlook the nazi use of gas chambers. according to the holocaust museum nearly 2.7 million jews were killed in poison centers by poison gas or shooting. later spicer tried to clarify his remarks with in. >> i think when you come to sarin gas, there was no -- he was not using the gas on his own people the same way that assaded is -- i mean, there's clearly -- i understand. thank you. thank you. i appreciate that. there was not -- he brought them into the holocaust center, i understand that, but the way assad used them, went into town and dropped them down into the
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middle of towns. the use of it, and i appreciate the clarification. that was not the intent. >> reporter: since that briefing earlier today, sean spicer has offered another clarification to that clarification, this one in the norm of a written statement. he says in no way was i trying to lessen the horrendous nature of the holocaust. i was trying to draw the distinction of the tactic of using airplanes to drop chemical weapons on population centers. any attack on innocent people is reprehensible and inexcusable. >> sara murray, thanks very much. joining us now, congressman adam smith from washington state. thanks so much for joining us. >> thanks, wolf. >> i want to get your reaction to the sean spicer comments on hitler and the use of poison gas. we know that hitler used poison gas to kill millions of people, including millions of jews. nancy pelosi, the democratic leader in the house, she just called on the white house to fire him. what's your reaction? >> well, i mean, it's obvious
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that sean spicer needs to know a lot more about history when he's making his comments and those comments were insensitive and ignorant without question. not the first time, so -- and also, you know, assad does not have to be worse than hitler in order to be a real problem, in order to be somebody worthy of our condemnation. i could tell that mr. spicer was freelancing there, and obviously he was out of his department, you know. i don't know if he needs to be fired or not, but he certainly does need to get bert at his job. >> do you agree with white house officials who believe russia is trying to cover up the bashar al assad regime's culpability in that chemical attack that killed so much civilians, including children? >> yes, i don't think there's any question about it. they are deflecting the blame from assad and, look, given the presence of russians on the base where the attack was launched from, it is very hard to imagine that they weren't aware of it, but at the end of the day putin doesn't care. he simply wants assad in power, and he'll kill whoever he has to
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kill to help make that happen. and the international community has to recognize russia for the rogue actor that they are. they are encouraging this type. despotic regimes wherever they can, and that's really the threat of russia. i mean, when putin started, you know, messing around in ukraine and other places, you know, that's but a small piece of what he is trying to do. he is trying to undermine liberal democracy every place he can and basically he's trying to make the world safe for autocratic dictatorships and we in the united states, as the leaders of freedom, should stand up against that and stand up strongly and try to real the international community to recognize not just assad's role in this attack but putin's role in this and in many, many other actions that are undermining freedom in this world. >> well, let's be specific. do you believe the russians actually worked with the syrian regime to conduct these chemical attacks? >> i don't know. like i said, it's hard to believe given their relationship that they weren't aware of it.
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on the other hand, it's hard to believe that they would be so stupid as to allow this to happen. i mean, assad was basically winning. russia had come in and propped him up. you know, were they would do this with the international condemnation that was sure to follow, i'm not sure, but, again, given the close relationship it's hard to believe they didn't know but i don't know for sure. i do not obviously have intelligence that has had a smoking gun that clearly says russia knew that a chemical attack was coming. it's just hard to imagine that they didn't. >> congressman, you've said in the past nat syrian leader bashar al assad should go, so how do you think that should be done and try to be as specific as you can? what needs to be done to get rid of them. >> two things. we need to separate the question of whether or not assad is the lpgt levered syria with the question of what do we do to take them out? and i think there were bad early steps from the trump administration that essentially seemed to say it was okay for
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assad to stay in power. we were going to focus on isis. independent of the question of how you would go about removing him, just stating clearly that given theboro at all has reigned down on his own people he's not had a legitimate leader and isis will not be defeated as long as assad is there. he's a raelg cry given the way he brutalizes his own people for many in the arab-muslim world. the next question is how do you remove him? well, i'm not a fan of regime change. we've learned a lot from libya, iraq and afghanistan that us as an outside power being able to step in and remove, number one, extraordinarily difficult two and, number two, you've got to know what's comes next and it's an impossible situation. i don't suggest there's an easy answer hare but at a minimum we need to call out assad for what
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he is. he cannot be an ally in extremism. he fuels extremism because of the brutality of his rule. >> do you think it's realistic that he could be removed as long as he has the very strong support of the russians, iranians, the iranian-backed shiite groups like hezbollah, all of whom are supporting his regime. >> hon leftly, i don't. with all the groups supporting him. he's able to stand in power and i want to make sure that we don't overreact in the u.s. and think that there's some military solution and think that we can go in there and go to war and not just with syria but russia and iran and not cause more damage than is currently being caused. look, the images are horrific. what assad has done is horrific, but we also have to be mindful of our limitations and i think in the past, certainly in the case of barack, we overthought what he could do.
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siddig ibrahim siddig ali was i'll, it's not that simple the united states didn't have the power to come in and take it and move it in a positive direction, but i think you outlined perfectly the very realistic challenges of making, you know, any sort of significant change in the short term. >> you make a fair point. moammar gadhafi was a very, very, very bad man and errs helped get which had of him look at that. that's in libya in north africa. much more to discuss. we've just heard from president trump who is now weighing in on all of this. we'll tell you what he's saying right after this. cl a
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the pentagon said there is no doubt that the syrian regime is behind the deadly attack on civilians and tensions are rising on the other side of the world as north korea reacts angrily to the deployment of a u.s. carrier force and we're back with congressman adam smith, the ranking democrat of the house armed services committee. back to north korea in a moment, congressman. fox business released an excerpt from an interview that they just did with president trump, a part of it on syria. let me play the clip for you. >> we're not going into syria, but when i see people using horrible, horrible chemical weapons, which they agreed not to use under the obama administration, but they violate it had. >> they said they got rid of them. >> hey, look what i did should have been done by the obama administration a long time
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before i did it, and would you have had a much better -- i think syria would be a lot better off right now than it has been. >> although i want to point out back in 2013 when the obama administration did not respond to the use of chemical weapons with a military strike he did at that time tweet he was a private citizen. what i'm saying is stay out of syria. he also tweeted rebels just as bad as the regime. he said stay out of syria and now he says the obama administration should have moved. what's your reaction to all of this? >> first of all, i hope at some point president trump realizes that he is in fact president and should take responsibility for what's going on instead of continually blaming other people for everything, most notably president obama, but certainly he blames others, so that's the first point. the second pointsy hear what he's saying about the chemical weapons, but assad has murdered and butchered his own people with conventional weapons as well and that's extraordinarily problematic, and what is the trump administration going to do
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going forward if syria continues to use chemical weapons? i mean, i supported the strike. i think it made sense to respond that way, but we also have to be mindful of the limitations of that. it didn't do too much damage to syria, and we still don't have a clear policy from the trump administration about how they plan to work towards an alternative to assad, and i certainly don't want the policy to be what t had been prior to this chemical weapons attack from the trump administration which was basically assad is okay because he's with us on fighting isis. that is not the case. we need a different policy. >> let me talk about north korea with you for a moment. you're in seattle, seattle washington. the former cia director michael hayden has said soon, he says within the next few years, north korea will be able to reach seattle with a nuclear weapon. north korea warned it is ready to react to any mode of war desired by the u.s. those are their words, if the u.s. were to make some moves towards a preemptive strike. how serious is a threat like that from the north korean
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leader? >> well, i think the threat is very serious. north korea obviously they are an incredibly dangerous country. the fact that they already possess nuclear weapons makes them even more dangerous. you have an unbelievably unstable leader in kim jong-un. what i'm worried about is i don't want us to miscalculate and do something that would prompt a reaction. look, north korea already has nuclear weapons. they are already a threat to the international community. the best way to contain them in my mind is to make deterrents absolutely clear, that there are lines that if they step over in terms of attacking south korea or japan, anyone in the region, much less us, then we will obliterate them, because the one thing about kim jong-un he's not suicidal. part of the reason he's building all these weapons, nuclear weapons, testing missiles is he wants to discourage anyone from trying to take him out, and i think what we have to make clear is he cannot attack any of his
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neighbors if he wants to survive. i don't want us to do something premature. i mean, given the nuclear weapons he has and given the conventional weapons that are already trained on seoul, a nation of i think -- a city of i think around 14 million people, so any kinetic action on our part trying to prevent him from getting further down the line with blirnlgs i think is more likely to have worse consequences than if we simply maintain a very strong deterrent posture. >> yeah, his conventional military capability is enormous just north of the demilitarized zone. he's got a million troops, thousands of artillery pieces, missile launchers and seoul, as you pointed out, a huge city, only 30 miles south of the dmz. the stakes clearly are enormous. congressman, thanks for joining us. >> thanks, wolf. appreciate the chance, as always. coming up, more on the american warships approaching the korean peninsula as north korea is raising the specter of nuclear warfare. meanwhile, president trump is reacting to the escalating
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you can actually remember, instantly. add that premium channel, and watch the show everyone's talking about, tonight. and the bill you need to pay? do it in seconds. because we should fit into your life, not the other way around. go to the breaking news. pentagon officials now say they have no doubt the syrian regime is behind a deadly chemical attack on its own civilians. at a briefing today the pentagon declined to directly link russia to the massacre, but officials did accuse the russian military of attempting to destroy evidence of the attack. john kirby, you used to work at the pentagon, the state department. the trump administration deliberately now accusing the russians of trying to cover up this syrian chemical attack. how significant is this? >> if it proves true it's
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enormously significant. look, there's no question that russian forces at the bases had to know something, but to be complicit in it and actually try to cover it up. that's a significant charge, and i suspect that secretary tillerson, at least i hope, he raises that when he meets with foreign minister lavrov. >> and he might meet with putin, too. we don't nope if that's going to happen. phil mudd, the white house, as you heard, they say there's no consensus in the u.s. intelligence community right now about whether russia was actually complicit in organizing the actual chemical attack, but one u.s. official is telling us that russia will have to answer how it could share that air base that was knocked out by those tomahawk cruise missiles with syrian regime forces and not know of this chemical weapons strike. what's your answer to that? >> look, i think this is simpler. i think they are complicit. let me tell you what's happening in the intelligence community. before the attack i suppose you can make an argument about the difference in intelligence between what you think.
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for example, we're 70% certain at cia that the russians know, and what you know. we can guarantee, mr. president, that they were aware of the attack. the significant question though is, wolf, let's go to the past four days. what do they know "now"? presumably they have talked to syrian officials. they are on the ground there at the air base, but furthermore, they have got their own intelligence assets. they have human penetrations, i guarantee you, of the syrian government and have intercepts of the syrian military. if you want to tell me afterwards why they still continue to cover up for the russians, that they still don't know it. i don't buy that for a second, wolf. they got to know. >> john kirby, do you buy that? >> i think there's certain a level of knowledge here. how high it go, i don't know, but i think phil is right. i think certainly there's -- in the last four days they have gained more knowledge -- more context about what happened. >> you know there was a tomahawk cruise missile strike, nia, but is there a real trump administration strategy, dom call it doctrine, that is unfolding right now? >> there doesn't really seem to be. you've seen some shifts even
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over the last couple of days. tillerson initially said that the fate of assad would be up to the syrian people. he is now saying that -- that assad's reign over syria will come to an end. i think the question still in terms of the policy it what does that mean? how does his reign come to an end, and when does it come to an end? you heard from general mattis today where he said that the u.s. has no intention of going full bore into this very complicated civil war, and in some ways we're still in some ways i think at obama strategy with the threat of another response and the way that we saw from this trump administration if there is a similar chemical attack, so i think that's in some ways where we are. the trump administration learning the same lessons that the obama administration found out and now trying to put that pressure on russia in the same way that the obama administration did with little sense that there will actually be results. >> ron bronstein. >> the difference is now on the wake of this attack on the air base, there may be some leverage
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now for secretary tillerson. he may have some advantages at the table tomorrow that secretary kerry didn't have. >> because of the attack? >> yeah, in terms of the rattling the russians' cage a little bit and with our willingness to use force against the regime. it was carefully scripted and very narrowly focussed, as secretary mattis made clear today about the chemical attack, but, still, it may give tillerson just a bit of an negligent these talks >> you know, ron brownstein, sean spicer, the white house press secretary said russia could be compelled to be more cooperative. give up its support for bashar al assad because right now the russians are on the same team, he said, with syria and iran. >> yeah. >> and that's not a team that you want to be on. how realistic is that? >> look, these events of the past week have so totally disrupted the gyroscope of the way the trump administration came in thinking about syria but also about russia. the dialogue during the campaign, and even into the first weeks and months of the administration, was essentially we will put off the question. we will essentially tacitly
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accept the rule of assad in order to get russia's cooperation against isis. that's what the president during the campaign most explicitly talked about as the benefit of a reset with russia, that they would join with us against isis. what's become clear, and, again, it's clear again today, more important than dislodging isis from syria, to them, to russia, is stabilizing assad's rule in syria, and i -- i think, you know, john, you have a better sense than i but i don't believe putin wants to give him a blank check and be on the hook for anything he wants to do but idea they are willing to give this up and shift their focus as we wanted during the campaign towards isis has been one of the other things exploded in the past week. >> phil mudd, there's been a clear, what the diplomats would call, evolution in the president -- president trump's strategy and thinking of what to do in syria. you've seen a dramatic change, haven't you? >> it's not an evolution, wolf. it's backfilling. the president saw some photo and decided to do something and the
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diplomats said, heck, we bert figure out some strategy behind this in the last 96 hours to explain why we're doing something. let's be clear here. we're trying to corner the russians after an election campaign where the president cozied up to him. >> yeah. >> in the past week, week and a half ago we saw secretary tillerson say the syrians should decide their own solution, and now we're saying not only should we take -- somebody should take assad out but we're trying to isolate the russians. what happened in the mast week that didn't happen in the past six years? we have a butcher who has murdered 400,000 people. he used chemical weapons in 2013. he's been allied with the russians for years. what led the president to change his opinion? i'm afraid that emotion by looking at photographs led him to strike and the diplomats said, heck, we better come up in the wake of that strike to explain why we did it. i think there's zero strategy here. >> guys, stand by. more to discuss. i want to get everyone's reaction also to the white house press secretary sean spicer saying alternate briefing today that even as someone as
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despicable as hitler didn't use chemical weapons. we'll be right back. just like the marines did. at one point, i did change to a different company with car insurance, and i was not happy with the customer service. we have switched back over and we feel like we're back home now. the process through usaa is so effortless, that you feel like you're a part of the family. i love that i can pass the membership to my children, and that they can be protected. we're the williams family, and we're usaa members for life. call usaa today to talk about your insurance needs.
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the trump administration is making its case for missile strikes against the syrian air base following the deadly chemical attack on civilians but the white house press secretary sean spicer is now scrambling to clarify comments that he made comparing bashar al assad to adolf hitler. listen to this. >> we didn't use chemical
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weapons in world war ii. you know, you had a -- someone as despicable as hitler who didn't even sink to the -- to using chemical weapons. so you have to if you're russia ask yourself is this a country that you and a regime you want to align yourself with when it comes to sarin gas? he was not using the gas on his own people the same way that assad is -- clearly, i understand, thank you. thank you. i appreciate that. there was not -- he brought them into the holocaust center, i understand that, but in the way that assad used them where he went into towns, dropped them down to innocent -- into the middle of towns. it was brought -- so the use of it, and i appreciate the clarification there. that was not the intent. >> after the briefing, he issued this statement, sean spicer. quote in, no way was i trying to lessen the horrendous nature of the holocaust. i was trying to draw a distinction of the tactic of using airplanes to drop chemical weapons on population centers
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and any attack on that is reprehensible and inexcusable. john kirby, you were the state department spokesperson and the pentagon spokesman. what is your reaction to that? >> i cringed, i have to say. look, rule number one, you never compare hitler to anything, and it's just -- you just -- that's not smart. >> it never ends well. >> it never ends well. >> and i think, frankly, he made it worse when he tried to explain it in the briefing and then -- and in the statement. the only thing can you say is, look also, i misspoke i was wrong and apologize, and then let it go. i thought in trying to explain himself in the statement he actually only made it had worse >> what did you think, phil mudd? >> well, i agree. the explanation was worse, burks i mean, there's 100 angles to this. let me give you the first one that i reacted to in addition to the outrageousness of the remarks. if you're rex tillerson going in to take to a brazen dictator or foreign minister you gave him a talking point. as soon soon us a try to isolate the russians, you want to
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develop a partnership with us and 24 hours you compared us to hit lefrmt i think this makes the talks in moscow more difficult. i mean, you're looking at this nerms of decision-making. i've never been to a spokesman, but as john was saying, you either never talk about hitler or you can run out in a lightning storm and grab the tallest treatment which one do you want to tree? epically bad judgment that's inexplicable, wolf. i don't get it the. >> ron brownstein, it's a liability for the trump administration because all of a sudden people are talking about this as opposed to some other issues that they would clearly prefer us to be talking about. >> confidence matters, execution matters. the sentiment that sean spicer was trying to express is one that has broad -- most americans would agree with, basically saying to russia is this really where you want to be in the international community? that point got totally lost in the execution, and by the way, if you look at where drufnl is ov -- before donald trump is overall as president, 40%, much lower than anyone else, experts agree it's about competence,
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demeanor, the approach to the presidency more than at this at this point about agenda. competence, execution. those things do matter at this level. >> yeah, and i heard him say and i'm sure you did as well, nia, as despicable as hitler was, he didn't sink to using chemical weapons. i said what is he talking about? >> and then he used the phrase holocaust centers which he, of course, meant gas chambers. i don't think anyone has ever used the phrase holocaust centers and the other thing is if he's really comparing assad to hitler in saying in some ways assad is worse than hitler, then you would imagine that the u.s. would have some urgency to remove assad so it goes to sort of a policy argument if in fact that's what he's argue, but, again, you know, not a good day for zane spicer, and he hasn't in some ways had a good run. he's become a caricature on "snl," mispronounced assad's name in that briefing so it goes what ron was talking about in terms of competence.
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>> yesterday he was mispronouncing his name. >> nancy pelosi, the democratic leader in the house, issued a statement saying the white house should fire him. >> that's the president's choice, and i think, you know, as i said, the underlying sentiment that he was trying to get at was an important one that most americans would agree with, and i think most people would have been -- have been pleasantly surprised by the degree to which they have called out russia. rex tillerson's statement this morning in italy where he said that it didn't -- you know, whether it was complicit or just inattention didn't matter to the dead. that is a powerful moral statement that was perhaps stronger than many people would have anticipated from the trump administration in the wake of this, but all of that, again, gets lost. competence, execution, they matter. >> here's the thing. i mean, assad's brutality doesn't need to be compared to anything. it's bad enough as it, is and, look, i think it's great that they took this strike in retaliation for the chemical attack and i'm glad that secretary mattis came out and explained that they are not afraided to do it again. that's where you need leave t.making comparisons from that podium, particularly that --
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that comparison, never a good idea. >> thanks, guys. more news coming in. president trump scolds kim jong-un on deanwitter accusing north korea of looking for trouble. our exclusive report, that's next.
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. north korea is calling the u.s. deployment group a strike if provoked. cnn's will ripley is inside north korea for us right now.
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let's go live to pyongyang. will, what's the mood over there. >> reporter: well, this really is an unprecedented situation here. we've never seen dynamics like this with north korea. we've heard north korea threaten attacks again the united states for quite sometime. never before have we add u.s. president responding with such fiery rhetoric and it seems both sides keep upping the ante, and nobody knows if a military confrontation could possibly be on the horizon. brand-new images of north korean leader kim jong-un providing silently over the people's assembly in pyongyang. the man they call supreme leader sitting beneath giant statues of his father and grandfather. north korea's two late leaders. the symbolism is clear. the third generation leader, like his father and grandfather before him, continues to hold absolute power over north korea
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and its growing nuclear arsenal. that arsenal has become central to what many here see as a potential showdown with the u.s. after a frantic series of north korean missile launches, this week the u.s. moved warships, including the aircraft carrier uss carl vinson, off the korean peninsula. that move prompted an angry response from the north koreans overnight. hand delivered to us in pyongyang. calling the warships reckless acts of aggression, the government told us if the u.s. dares to choose a military option, the dprk is willing and ready to react to any mode of war desired by the u.s. president trump responded in turn on twitter today. writing, north korea is looking for trouble. if china decides to help, that would be great. if not, we will solve the problem without them. usa. and in a second tweet, i explained to the president of china, that a trade deal with
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the u.s. will be far better for them if they solve the north korean problem. blunt words for kim jong-un regime and for president ping who made no promises after meeting trump last week. china is north korea's only meaningful trading partner but it's not clear how far china is willing to go to reign in pyongyang or if economic pressure would work. tensions on the korean peninsula at their highest level in years. with u.s. warships off the coast, and just days after president trump ordered a missile strike on the syrian government, perceived by some inside north korea as a thinly-veiled threat. this north korean news reader saying we are not intimidated. north koreicree korean state me
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warning of a strike if provoked. we are three days from their most important day of the year, the day of the sun. north korea has a track record for a long time of projecting strength and power around their major holidays, often with provocative military activity. five years ago they tried launch a satellite into orbit just two days before the day of the sun. will kim jong-un order his six nuclear tests and roll out a missile launcher and fire more missiles and the really unknown question tonight wolf, how will president trump respond? >> important questions indeed. will ripley reporting from pyongyang north korea. thank you. coming up, as the pentagon blames the syrian regime for a gas attack, white house press secretary sean spicer says even hitler didn't use chemical weapons and forced to make a hasty clarify cation.
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>> i understand, thank you. point taken. thank you. not brought into the holocaust center. to monitor drilling operations in real-time, so our engineers can solve problems with the most precise data at their fingertips. because safety is never being satisfied. and always working to be better. [he has a new business teaching lessons. rodney wanted to know how his business was doing... he got quickbooks. it organizes all his accounts, so he can see his bottom line. ahhh...that's a profit. know where you stand instantly. visit quickbooks-dot-com.
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breaking news np a new explanation on why the u.s. retaliated against bashar al-assad. tonight, president trump speaks out about his moves in syria. i'll get reaction from leon panetta. rex tillerson is in


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