tv CNN Newsroom CNN September 3, 2013 10:00am-11:01am PDT
they support the president's call for military action. they're support coming just within the past couple of hours after president obama held talks with speaker boehner and every key national security committee. the effort to win over support intensifies next hour. john kerry and chuck hagel and general martin dempsey will have the first public hearing on the possible use of force in syria. the president is also making his case. >> this is not iraq and it's not afghanistan. this is a limited proportional step. it will send a message to syria and other countries that may be interested in testing these norms. >> president obama is confident he'll get congress to back his
plan. others are pushing for them to vote. >> assad did it and hundreds of children were killed. this is behavior outside the circle of civilized human behavior. we must respond. >> this is something that the unites states as a country needs to do. i'm going to support the president's call for action. i believe that my colleagues should support this call for action. >> dana bash now joins us from capital hill from the hearing room. the senate relations committee is gearing up to hold on the possible use of force in syria. what do we expect to hear today from secretary of state john kerry and chuck hagel and general martin dempsey who has expressed skepticism about u.s. intervention. >> reporter: as i answer that,
let me show you where they'll be sitting. we have an interesting behind the scenes look at where they'll be. this is the witness table. chuck hagel will be here. john ker ary will be here and martin dempsey will be here. we've heard a lot from the man in the middle, john kerry making his case. he's been perhaps the most out front on saying this absolutely needs to happen and the most passionate in his defense of the need for military strikes. chuck hagel is a bit more interesting. he was back before his former colleagues. these two men are former senators, which is another subplot. he has a rough go of it for his on confirmation hearing. with regard to this mission he's talked some publicly but not a lot. a lot of questions will be directed at hagel and martin
dempsey because in talking to a lot of the members of congress, some of their main questions are about the military action and how they can be as limited in scope as the president is saying. before i toss it back to you. ted baron and i talked to a source close to harry reid's thinking and he is confident that he will have the votes to pass this authorization for military action in syria through the senate. they know it's possible, maybe even likely that they will need 60 votes to overcome a potential filibuster and they feel confident they have that. they are making changes to the language of the authorization to make sure that they have everybody on board and it really is the read as limited as they say it will be. >> when i always feel skeptical when i hear senate majority leaders or house speakers talking about this is going to pass when there are so many undecided voters. how much of that is based on a
whip count? counting members and seeing how they will go and how much of that is trying to project confidence so that members of the house and senate feel like they have to get on the winning team? >> reporter: it's a great question. i think it's a combination of both. a big part of what they are. doing behind the scenes are trying to build whatever they can legislatively so they can pass this. he's working with the man who will be sitting over here, bob menendez right now to redo the language. they're making calls particularly to democrats and even some republicans to know exactly how they need to change the language in order to get their votes. it's not they're just putting this up and saying will you vote for it? >> thank you. let's now go to the white house.
the white house is winning over some key lawmakers. this is a very much uphill battle. where do they think they are now? >> reporter: it's very up in the air. they feel pretty confident and positive. i've talked to some white house officials that they have the momentum here which they do. does it mean they have the votes? no. they're not saying they have the votes. they feel they have the momentum and this sort of extraordinary level of outreach between president obama and his white house and his administration, they think that it is working. here is some of what he said earlier in this meeting with lawmakers. okay. we do not have the sound that i was just tossing to. i thought it was pretty extraordinary when you saw him in the cabinet room meeting with these lawmakers. it wasn't that general few sentences that he often times gives when he does have members of congress over. this was many minutes that he
spoke for and he was really laying out his case in what appeared to be a genuine way. we heard coming out of that meeting from senator diane fienstein, they felt it was the most effective meeting in years. it's not a done deal wp are other members of congress going to do go along with that. if they don't, will the president still decide to strike? if the president does move forward with the strike, there are a number of questions. has this delay hurt the efforts of the u.s. to take out those ca cape abilities. >> thank you. despite public expressions of confidence, president obama still has his work cut out for him to get congress on board and the senate will likely need 60 votes to fend off a potential
filibust filibuster. our count so far shows he only has 20. in the house, 218 votes are needed. right now only 16 members have come out in favor of a strike. 47 members of the house are against it. 376 are undecided or their position is unknown. one of those undecided in the senate, arizona republican senator jeff flake is on capital hill. thanks for joining us. speaker boehner and eric cantor say they are with the president. john mccain seems supportive saying a defeat of the bill would be catastrophic. where are you? how would you vote if the vote were today? >> i'm in the middle of hearings. we have had a couple of classified briefings this morning. we have a hearing this afternoon that will be televised. i'm obviously going to wait
until i heard all the evidence and the strategy. >> when you're at this hearing today, what do you need to hear from secretaries kerry and hagel and general dempsey? >> what i've waited to hear is why waiting is a good idea for congressional authorization that was not needed. that's what troubles me and many others. they said the targets are still there and we haven't degraded our ability to degrade their ability by waiting. i don't have a military background but it seems strange to me that you can give a regime a signal that you're waiting and obviously they can move things around in ways that make it more difficult to effect these targets. >> weren't many of your fellow republicans calling for an authorization vote? isn't this president obama being responsive to your side of the aisle? >> there have been many who were calling for that.
i certainly was not one of those calling for authorization before you take action. obviously, the war powers resolution, the president has 60 days, really 90 days to come to congress. i would expect if he feels it's in our interest to strike, to do so when it makes sense and then come to congress for authorization. it just seems a rather strange way to go about it. >> do you think that regime change should be a goal if there are any military strikes? >> that's the desire that we want. it doesn't have to be a part of the strategy of the strike. the strike can be to degrade their ability to launch chemical weapons and i don't think it has to be. that's the desire that we have and nobody would be disheartened if it happened to speed that process along. >> senator, how confident are you in the intelligence having participated in some of these
classified briefings. there are some skeptics out there who say the united states is reporting numbers that our allies are not reporting in terms of 1400 deaths and it's kind of vague as to how the united states is asserting that sarin gas was definitively used. are you confident? >> even the regime in syria has acknowledged that. they were trying to put the blame on the rebel forces. there is still come question was this directly ordered by assad? was it a rogue general or others acting without his authority. obviously, he has to take the heat. he's the one in charge there. i don't think that's really the question as to whether or not chemical weapons were used. >> are you confident in the intelligence that you're hearing behind closed doors?
>> it's compelling. it's quite compelling, yes. >> thank you so much for joining us. we appreciate it. >> thanks. >> tune in tonight at 11:00 p.m. for my live special "crisis in syria." i'll be interviewing another member of the senate foreign relations committee. will marco rubio support president obama's push for military strikes in syria? we'll have him and a lot more at 11:00 p.m. right now the military is trying to decide where to strike. how will a strike hurt or help u.s. national security in we'll take a look at the scenarios. it's startling statistic. every 15 seconds a syrian becomes a refugee in war that's killed more than 100,000 people. we'll go live to a refugee camp to look at conditions there. and you're going to hear live from senator bob menendez.
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missile test. the arrow defense system successfully detected and tracked a sparrow target missile. the u.s. department of defense confirms it provided technical support and assistance. the pentagon said the test has nothing to do with any possible u.s. military action in syria. in the next hour the senate foreign committee will holds its first case on striking syria. among those testifying will be chuck hagel and martin dempsey and john kerry. jo it's good to see you again. what do you expect will come out of the the hearing? >> secretaries hagel and kerry will be making the case for an
attack. if the u.s. does not act now they will be em boldened to use these weapons and attack u.s. allies and threaten u.s. interest. dempsey will make the case that no matter when the u.s. military strikes it will happen. >> how could it be the case that giving syria all this lead time won't effect the strikes and how potentially effective they are? >> you don't want to telegraph. the defense department arguing is they would bh adjusting their targets no matter what had they started this weekend or two weeks from now. syrian forces respond. they mover resources. the pentagon would be adjusting their targets. it's a difficult case to make because chemical weapons facility cases can empty. >> dempsey has expressed skepticism publicly and
privately about the effectiveness of this potential attack. what is he going to say today? senators will bring that up. >> he wrote a letter saying that any action would amount to a serious act of war. what the pentagon is saying he was a skeptic not of a limited strike. a skeptic of a mass operation like no-fly zone and boots on the ground. >> all right. good to have you on board. >> thank you. the u.n. says a syrian becomes a refugee every 15 seconds. the numbers are staggering. we'll hear about some of the horrors women refugees are facing.
analysis. secretary of state john kerry says samples collected show signatures of sarin gas. the united nations says there's another face to the crisis that the world has to deal with, refugees. a syrian becomes a refugee every 15 seconds. the numbers add up quickly. there's more than two million syrian refugees. that's ten times more than this time last year and more than four million others have been displaced inside the country. it would mean 30 million americans becoming refugees. 30 million. that's almost the entire population of california. arwa damon reports that women refugees have become especially vulnerable. >> reporter: it's not this 25-year-old's real name. she's terrified. when she first arrived here she went to small local group that
was distributing food. they called me back in the evening saying we have a distribution at 7:00 p.m. she calls. she says she got there with a friend of hers. two men then said they had to drive to the warehouse. think attacked us. we started to scream and cry she remembers speaking softly. she says the men tried to rape them but they fought back. they said why are you scared. nothing happened. you are married. why are you afraid of this? it's not your first time. there was no one she could turn to. not even her family. they will say why did you go there and they aren't going to listen. either they will kill me or they will send me to my parents and they will kill me. we are a tribal society. the mother of three suffers in
silence. the stigma prevents many of the victims from seeking help and there's no way to know how widespread such abuses are. as the syrian refugee population grows, so to does the landscape of all forms of exploitation. she's just 14. her mother says she sent her to clean houses to make much needed extra money. one day three teens tried to corner her. she ran home trying. they scared me. they made me hate life she remembers. her mother adds. she said mama, i would rather die in our country then have these problems. at least two million syrians are now refugees in neighboring countries. that's just the registered number. in reality, aide groups say it's much, much higher. host countries cannot adequately
handle the influx and even organizations like unhch say they have less than 50% of the funds required to meet basic refugee needs. the global community has failed to unite and end the war in syria but there's no justification to failing to provide funding for refugees or for protecting the most vulnerable among them. arwa damon, cnn, beirut. >> a sobering report. senator bob menendez joinuss us.
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dempsey will face the senate foreign relations committee. dana bash, you're there with the chairman of the senate foreign committee. does he share president obama's optimism that this authorization will pass? >> reporter: thank you. you'll start what will be an incredibly important moment. jake's first question is do you share be president's optimism now we're hearing from the optimism from the senate majority leader that authorization can pass the senate? >> i believe so. i believe today will be an important part of that. when we have the case made on the intelligence that shows that the assad regime committed a heinous act in violation of international law by having chemical weapons attack innocent civilians and when we hear the
follow on response to what we do in a response of that attack and the consequences of inaction i think that the senate will be supportive of a resolution for limited use of force. >> you just came this morning from a meeting with the president and the whole group of your colleagues but afterwards you had a little side meeting with the president and your republican counterpart, can you give us a little news about what you discussed with the president? >> i think the president wanted to get a sense of how we're looking to proceed. we wanted to get a conversation about the outlines of what the resolution would look like. he said this is a momentus occasion and i trust both of you working together in a bipartisan fashion and help the country achieve its goal. >> you are working with the senate majority leader and others to change the language of
this authorization in order to make it more palettable so you can get the votes for it. many of your colleagues thought it was too broad. can you give insight as to how you're changing that. >> here's our goal. we want to great a balance between giving the president the power to have the devicive action he needs to take in syria and at the same time not make this an open ended commitment. >> there will be an expiration date? >> there will be clauses with reference to no boots on the ground and in some respect there will be somewhat of a frame work of time. obviously, we have to have preparations for if there's any response by the assad regime given the president the flexibility there. i would say that if there is a future use of chemical weapons creating the opportunity for that to be responded to but i think we will strike the balance in which members on both sides, those who want to be more
aggressive, more robust. >> i want to give our viewers a little sense. this is your chair. it says it right there. the man who will be sitting in the middle here in the witness table, john kerry, just nine months ago was sitting over there in that chair. how much does that play into the dynamic here? you have a very heavy lift because you'll be leading these senators and questioning these very important witnesses. john kerry knows what it's like to be in your chair. how much will that help or hurt? >> i think secretary kerry having the experience understands the dynamics of the committee and the thinking of members and understands what case he has to make in order to persuade a cross section of members on both sides of the aisle. i think that's a big plus for us. he's a tremendous advocate and
he knows the senate and he knows senators. >> chuck hagel also was a senator when he had his return here for his confirmation hearing, didn't go so well. almost like he forgot what it was like to be a senator. how much is his influence going to really matter here? my guess is just in talking to your colleagues a lot of questions will be for him and general dempsey because there's a lot of concern about the military operation. >> i think both of them will be incredibly important because there's a growing consensus over the fact that assad committed these crimes. the question members have is what does this military action look like. how long will it take. at the end of the action what can we expect. i think those questions will go to both secretary hagel and general dempsey. >> thank you very much. we'll toss it back to you. thanks, dana.
dead in a rolled wrestling match in georgia. it happened this past january. his death was ruled accidental, but his family was granted permission to exhume the body in may and our correspondent victor blackwell has obtained this independent oups report that says the georgia high school teenager died from, and i'm quoting this report, an unexplained apparent nonaccident blunt force trauma. victor joins me in studio. the family all along when they got that initial autopsy had a lot of questions. >> they always questioned it and so did hundreds of supporters who rallied in this small town. they never believed the story that he dove into the mat and got stuck and died because of the position. they had his body exhumed. there's a second autopsy and that pathologist determined pfs blunt force trauma to the right neck consistent with injuries. now you have two feuding
reports. one says accidental. the other said consistent with injuries. >> given this new independent autopsy report what happens next? >> they've been asking all this time for an investigation. they want to speak with the family's attorney. now he wants to talk to this independent pathologist. he said it's not rushed. he wants to do it right to make sure the people in this community have confidence in what the final outcome is. >> we want to hear from the family. i know you're working on it. we'll stay on the story with you. coming up next, delaying a possible strike isn't time sensitive. this is the opinion of the chairman of joints chief of staff general martin dempsey but not all military men agree. chris lawrence will have that report straight from the pentagon.
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drawing mixed reaction especially since he says it doesn't have to happen right away. not everyone sees it that way. >> reporter: right now u.s. military officials are refining their targets in syria looking see what has been moved and where. >> it's much harder. >> reporter: senator john mccain agrees with some officials who say u.s. intelligence and targeting technologies can overcome anything syrian president bashar assad tries to hide. >> it's not time sensitive. >> reporter: five navy warships are positioned with 40 tomahawk missi missiles. president obama says general martin dempsey assured him strikes would be just as effective a month from now.
>> i'm astoundsed when he says it doesn't matter. >> reporter: some former commanders say it most certainly does. >> a skud battery that we could have found in the open on saturday will not be next to a mosque ten days from now. >> reporter: retired general michael short commanded the air mission over kosovo. while some targets are static, short says there's now a greater risk you hit the defense ministry with no defense ministers inside. >> you'll have an incredible picture of the building coming down when it's struck by a couple of cruise missiles but assads ability to command and control his military has been impacted not at all. >> reporter: officials are confident because they believe that asad cannot hide some very important targets. they say syria does not have large, fortified underground bunkers that can protect big targets like airplanes and
attack helicopters and you can't part many of those next to an urban school or mosque. officials believe after two years of conflict that assads forces are degraded where limited damage to his communications and assets will be felt by the regime. chris lawrence, cnn, the pentagon. president obama gets a big boost from his plan for key republicans. we'll look at who is backing the president's plan and why, coming up next. i even wrote a play about that. my symptoms were a pain in my abdomen and periods that were heavier and longer than usual for me. if you have symptoms that last two weeks or longer, be brave, go to the doctor. ovarian and uterine cancers are gynecologic cancers. symptoms are not the same for everyone. i got sick... and then i got better.
president obama is getting support for his syria plan from some top house republicans, speaker john boehner and eric cantor both say they support the president's call for military action. here is what speaker boehner said earlier today. >> i'm going to support the president. i believe my colleagues should support this call for action. we have enemies around the world that need to understand we're not going tolerate this type of behavior. we also have allies around the world and allies in the region who also need to know that america will be there and stand up when it's necessary. >> the house majority leader says he'll vote to give president obama quote, the option to use military force in
syria anding america has a compelling national security interest to respond to weapons. gloria, how key is it to have support from boehner and cantor? >> it's better to have them than not to have them. this isn't like a budget vote. this is a vote that the leaders don't go around and what they call whip. they don't go around and say you have to be with us. this is a vote of conscious. i think the fact that boehner is with the president isn't going to convince some house republicans whose districts are adamantly against the use of force nor would it help convince democrats that nancy pelosi supports the president. i think in both parties you have a division. you have division in the democratic party. those who want to give the president this and believe that you've got the wing of the democratic party that's against the use of force and same thing in the republican party.
by the way, it's the wing of the democratic party that the president really helped foster and create in his rise to prominence, there's a little irony here for president obama. he's on the other side now. >> one of the criticisms i've heard from republicans is even some house republicans and senate republicans who may be inclined to take military action don't have a tremendous amount of confidence in president obama's leadership and you and i were talking during the break. his about face on saturday or i guess friday night announced saturday whether or not to seek congressional authorization. that the can't be helping that. >> i don't think it helps in either party. i talked to democrats and republicans who are all stunned. how did this occur? we were in a clear rollout to war. you know rollouts when you see them, right? >> secretary of state john kerry compared assad to hitler. >> you have the president of the united states, this was a rollout to military strike.
then suddenly, on saturday, we're sitting here waiting for the president to come out and what he said was wait a minute, i'm going to sort of stop it now because i think what he wanted was to get the country in line and get the congress behind him. his critics say that's because he doesn't want the responsibility for this on his own. that might be the case, but he also, don't forget, somebody on the record in the past for going to congress for authorization before the use of -- before going to war. if you look at his entire national security team, they've been in the same place, we know their views. kerry, hagel, biden, obama. >> it's not the position itself. it's the idea that there was no conveying that that was on the table. there was no suggestion that they were going to go to congress. >> right, then you take a walk in the rose garden with chief of staff and clearly something he was thinking about. this also tells us how this president makes decisions.
if people on his national security team were surprised then the public has a right to be surprised. he made this by himself. >> gloria borger, thank you so much. we have an exclusive interview with syria's ambassador to the united bashar. ja fari. wolf blitzer is next with special coverage of the senate foreign relations committee hearing. that's it for me. thank you for watching. that's why i like glucerna shakes. they have slowly digestible carbs to help minimize blood sugar spikes. [ male announcer ] glucerna. helping people with diabetes find balance. ingeniously uses radar to alert you to possible collision threats.
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washington. this is cnn special live coverage of the crisis in syria. we want to welcome our viewers in the united states and around the world. we're only a few minutes away from the hearing that the world has been waiting for, the decision to strike syria now in the hands of the united states congress. today you're going to get the best indication yet of where these u.s. lawmakers stand as we watch this hearing live on capitol hill, several members of president obama's inner circle will be testifying, including the secretary of state, john kerry, the defense secretary, chuck hagel and the chairman of the joint chiefs of staff general, martin dempsey. the president today giving his calls for military action one more push. >> the military plan that has been developed by joint chiefs and that i believe is
appropriate, is limited and does not involve boots on the ground. this is not iraq and not afghanistan. >> so far for the president he's got a couple of major players on his side from both sides of the aisle. minority leader nancy pelosi and the house speaker john boehner. >> weapons of mass destruction deterring their use is a pillar of our national security. assad has done that. that is a differentation from what he has done up until now. people say, well he killed 100,000 people, what's the difference with this 1400? this 1400 he crossed a line with using a chemical weapon. president obama did not draw the red line. humanity drew it decades ago. >> i'm going to support the president's call for action. i believe my colleagues should support this call for action. we have enemies around the world
that need to understand that we're not going to tolerate this type of behavior. we also have allies around the world and allies in the region who also need to know that america will be there and stand up when it's necessary. >> the president still has his work cut out for him to get congress on board. he needs 51 votes, unless there's a filibuster, then he would need 60 votes to break the filibuster. our count so far shows he has only 20 votes seemingly guaranteed. there are 72 senators who say they are undecided or their position is unknown. in the house, 218 votes are needed. right now only 16 members have come out in favor of a strike, 47 say they are totally against it, almost 200 are undecided. as for the rest, we simply don't know where they stand on striking syria but we're going to continue to monitor the head count on a day by day basis. we have our own chief
congressional correspondent dana bash standing by inside the capital and brianna keeler is outside the white house. dana, one of the biggest policy decisions of his presidency, certainly his legacy on the line, a lot of national security interest in the middle east on the line. he's gambling on a congress as you well know that often struggles to agree on anything and is bitterly not only divided but so many members, especially republicans, seem so totally opposed to almost anything the president comes up with. >> that is right. that is why it is so significant that the house speaker, john boehner, came out and said he supports the president's decision to use military action against syria. not just because it is something that would help him you would think with that fractured and really opposed republican caucus, but also because just so the way john boehner operates, he doesn't tend to come out he
say where he stands, particularly on a controversial issue. the fact he did now is certainly not going to sway those libertarians in the republican conference but it could perhaps, bring on board some who are just not sure how to go. and that is why that is a really significant thing. having said that, he has supported other things in the past like, remember, t.a.r.p. and still at that point failed in the house. i want you to look over my shoulder at what's going to happen here. this public display of discussion that we're going to see is going to mirror what is going on really in a frenzied pace, almost more than i've ever seen on capitol hill and covered this place a long time. the discussions and briefings and classified and unclassified. as we speak, in the intelligence committee, inside another classified room with house and senate members. it's happening all week long. they say they are going to flood the zone at the white house, they are flooding the zone. they are not there yet even
though that's what the senate majority leader thinks, but they are not taking anything for granted inside the house. it's remarkable to watch. >> they shouldn't take anything for granted there's a lot of opposition between not only republicans and plenty of democrats inclined to vote no right now. brianna, how confident are officials over there that in the end they will get yay votes from the house and senate. >> reporter: wolf, they are feeling better today than yesterday and better yesterday than they were the day before. the white house officials i've spoken with are optimistic, not that they have the votes at this point, but that momentum is on their side. they think it's so key that they got this full throated response and support from nancy pelosi and john boehner today, not just them but as well the number two republican in the house. when they add that up with the