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tv   Wolf  CNN  April 7, 2017 10:00am-11:01am PDT

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. hello i'm wolf blitzer. it's 1:00 p.m. here in washington. 8:00 p.m. in aleppo. wherever you're watching from around the world, thanks very much for joining us. up first breaking news. there are new developments in syria right now following that u.s. military air strike. president trump ordered the strike in response to the horrific chemical weapons attack just a little while ago. the white house released this photo of the president consulting with his national security team after the strike was launched. right now members of the senate are getting a closed door briefing on syria.
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>> the attack is the first direct military action by the united states against the regime of bashar al assad. the u.s. launched 59 tomahawk crews missiles at an air field in syria believed to be the base where syria launched this week's horrific chemical weapons attack. let's go right to the pentagon correspondent barbara starr. we're hearing the u.s. military is now looking at new evidence potentially showing russia was complicit. what are you learning? >> wolf, we have just concluded what is known as a background briefing here at the pentagon. senior officials coming out to brief reporters not allowing their names to be used because they said they wanted to offer as much detail as they could, so we can't tell you who they are. but these two senior officials had a good deal of new information and a lot of it did center on russian involvement.
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here is what we know. they now are saying that they will investigate any credible claims of russian complicity in the nerve agent attack. in other words, the event that set all of this off. they don't know at this point if the russians were involved, how involved they were, what the z russians knew. but they are now telling us there was a russian aviation unit at the base that they struck last night and those russian pilots would have known about every mission flying out of that base and one of those missions was the chemical mission that went to attack. that is one piece of evidence. how much did they want to find out. what did they know about it? what did they about what the syrians were up to? one of these officials, u.s. officials now telling us that the u.s. military will, quote, more aggressively look at
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whether there is now a full blown syrian chemical weapons program. what they are saying is that they believed the russians back around 2013 or so when that whole program was going on to have the syrian regime get rid of its chemical weapons and that they can't trust the russians now because of these recent events. but this gets complicated. they're saying they believe the russians. the u.s. intelligence community has long said that assad may have held on to a small portion of his chemical weapons, could always make more, and that he had the expertise, the technical expertise in the country to do that. so they're saying that i are going to aggressively investigate did, but this is something that has been out there for some time. we have seen chemical after chemical attack in syria for years now. this is nothing new. maybe more attention is being paid. but people knew it was out there. there's no question about that.
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one of the big elements that they want to find out revolves around one single aircraft. on the day of the attack, you had the initial detonation of this chemical bomb. then wepeople rapidly to get to hospital and get medical care. some hours after people are at the hospital another weapon drops from an airplane overhead. the belief is that airplane was trying to destroy evidence at the hospital of a chemical attack. who was flying that airplane? what we were told in this briefing is that right now the pentagon does not know if that airplane that might have been trying to destroy evidence at the hospital and kill even more people, it was russian made, but was it being felony by syrians or was it being felony indeed by the russians? there's only two choices in syria. it's either the regime or the russians. all of this now opening the door in a complex fashion to try to
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find out how involved the russians really were in what was going on and this sort of new thing about is there really a syrian chemical weapons program? i think it is fair to say we have seen so many of these chemical attacks, whether it's chlorine or nerve agent before. this was not a secret to the world, but it looks now like the trump administration wants to take a closer look at it, wolf. >> well, if there is evidence of direct russian involvement in this chemical, this this gas attack against these civilians. that will significantly escalate the tension not only between the u.s. and the bashar al assad regime, but with russia itself. it's going to seriously complicate this relationship. >> well, i think that is exactly why so far we are only seeing these so-called background briefings. we are seeing these statements. i think it is fair to say the trump administration perhaps not ready yet to put its name to it.
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we are just hours into this situation of looking at potential russian involvement. what the officials kept saying to the reporters in the room was if we find credible evidence, then we will investigate it. but clearly they have some reason to believe that this is a matter worth investigating. this is not something that is off the table, that is beyond the logical reason to go take a look at it. the door is very much open now to looking at how much the russians knew simply from the standpoint of base level. they were at the base. they were at the base that was attacked. there was a russian helicopter unit. those people would have known what was going on there. >> barbara starr with new information at the pentagon, the headline to u.s. military is looking into any -- for any evidence that the russian government was complicit in this chemical weapons attack. barbara, we'll get back to you.
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the u.s. air strike on syria certainly marks a very dramatic shift by president trump and his administration. ju just earlier in the week they had snnled -- snnlignal -- we a getting word that sean spicer, the white house press secretary, may be holding a briefing very soon. >> he is indeed, wolf. sean spicer is here near mar-a-lago and he will be briefing reporters shortly. before he begins that, we are talking to administration officials this morning. they are saying they're not as interested in regime change but changing the actions of bashar al assad. we'll see if that happens. i think taking a step back to take size of how abrupt and swift this development was this week, it started at 10:30
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tuesday morning when the president saw those images coming in from syria. he ordered a few actions and options from his national security team on wednesday. again, we of course heard his remarks in the rose garden saying that he was deeply moved and affected by this. wolf, we're also learning today as the president was flying down here to florida aboard his plane, air force one around 1:00 yesterday or so he had a security meeting aboard air force one to begin talking about these options, these strategies. shortly after that he came back to the press cabin and a few reporters asked him about assad and he said something had to happen. he had the options on the table at that point. last night he made the final decision around 4:00 or so before that dinner with the president of china. so we have here one foreign policy situation playing out as he was preparing to meet with the other leader of the world super power here, but this is
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something that the president did not discuss this morning when he was sitting down for a bilateral meeting with president xi jinping. this is what he said when asked about syria. >> thank you very much. >> so you can hear the president there not answering questions a short time ago at mar-a-lago about syria here. he is letting the actions last evening speak for themselves here. but quite frankly, wolf, there are questions from evening lawmakers and others who applauded the president for his action last evening for him to spell out more of a concrete strategy with syria going forward here. so as we -- >> jeff, i'm going to interrupt for a moment. sean spicer, the white house press secretary s briefing reporters. >> i don't -- do you want -- do you understand that -- what's that? >> what would you like to do.
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>> it's off. everything's off. let me just -- i've got michael with here, national security committee. with respect to president xi's visit, we intend to have a readout later. hopefully we'll gather with the pool at the very least and see what the rest of the day looks like. we'll continue to update that. i wanted to provide a little bit of tick tock on the president's action. i know there's been a lot of interest in this and then we can take a few questions. with respect to the action the president took in syria, and the questions regarding the timeline let me walk you through it. >> jeff, it's a little awkward. apparently he does not want this briefing to be on camera. as a result they've told the pool cameras there at the briefing to get off of him. we're hearing his audio, but i take it this has now been
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designed as an off camera briefing. ner in other words, it's on the record but we're not allowed to shoot it? >> tha >> that is right. we're down the road a bit. sean spicer was doing an interview with fox news earlier on camera and several reporters including cnn, jim acosta and myself here asked sean spicer to answer questions on cam rachera. they said they would do a briefing but preferred to be off camera. they are wanting the president's words from last night to be the main message of this administration here. but a bit unusual given the day after a major military operation, the first in this administration here, to not have more on camera briefings here. apologies for being sort november weeds, but sean spicer
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is now talking to reporters, taking some of those questions. really what he's doing is walking through a timeline that i just laid out for you a second ago of the last few days or so here that led up to this decision last evening here at mar-a-lago. >> a little awkward moment, but it's inside baseball as far as tv coverage of the sean spicer briefing is concerned. we'll get back to you. jeff zeleny down in palm beach, florida. the united states informed russia before launching the crews missiles into syria, about an hour before. russia has reacted with more than just heated words. let's go to moscow. paula newton is on the scene. first of all, what is russia saying about the u.s. air strike and perhaps even more importantly what are they doing? >> well, we get to what we're doing first. they suspended that air safety communication. that's the communication that make sure that u.s. and russia don't have a collision in the skies over syria. on top of that, they are sending
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a war ship back to the sea off the coast of syria. they are saying that they are building up their anti-missile defenses. what does all that mean? at this point it hadn't meant much until that explosive news from barbara starr. when we get to the news about what rex tillerson, the secretary of state said, russia was either complicit or incompetent. it seems to me the pentagon is saying look, we're going to try to find out from russia if they did use chemical weapons how come you didn't know that they had them or did you know that they had them and you knew they were going to use them? we obviously are just starting to learn this and we'll get reaction to you as quickly as we can. the main problem here is that there is no referee. t that is going to decide this. russia continually says you have no evidence and you can't prove that even syria was -- the syrian government was the perpetrator of that attack.
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i want you to listen now to the deputy u.n. envoy for russia speaking a few moments ago at the u.n. security council meeting. >> translator: we describe that attack as a violation of international law and an act of aggression. we strongly condemn the illegitimate actions by the u.s. the consequences of this for regional and international stability could be extremely serious. >> he did more than that. he seemed to be taunting nikki haley, the u.s. represent there, by saying we're not going to holdup any fophotos, but what about your air strikes and what they've done to children in mosul. and here's the interesting part. he just said we're not the ones afraid of an independent investigation to this chemical attack, you are afraid, the united states is afraid of an independent investigation into this attack.
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suffice to say that once russia learns the news of what the pentagon is claiming that they mayor may not know about this attack, we will once again have a fairly strong reaction from russia c russia. >> this tense relationship between the u.s. and russias looks like this's going to get a whole lot worse. >> nikki haley is speaking at the u.n. security council on this strike. let's listen. >> have terrorized its own people. it has murdered hundreds of thousands and displaced millions. it has broken international law and violated numerous u.n. resolutions. it has committed criminal acts that shocked the conscience of all humanity. the international community has repeated l repeatedly expressed its outrage. the joint mechanism has found beyond any doubt that the syrian regime has used chemical weapons against its own people multiple
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times. on tuesday the assad regime launched yet another chemical attack on civilians murdering innocent men, women, and children in the most gruesome way. 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. as i warned on wednesday, when the international community consistently fails in its duty to act collectively, there are times when states are compelled to take their own action. the indiscriminate use of krem cal weapons against innocent civilians is one of those times. the united states will not stand by when chemical weapons are used. it is in our vital national security interest to prevent the spread and use of chemical weapons. our military destroyed the air field from which this week's
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chemical strike took place. we were fully justified in doing so. the moral stain of the assad regime could no longer go unanswered. his crimes against humanity could no longer be met with empty words. it was time to say enough. but not only say it. it was time to act. bashar al assad must never use chemical weapons again, ever. now, while the syrian regime is responsible for the chemical weapons attack, it is not the only guilty party. the iranian government bears a heavy responsibility. it has propped up and shielded syria's brutal dictator for years. iran continues to play a role in the bloodshed in syria. the russian government also bears considerable responsibility. every time assad has crossed the line of human decency, russia
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has stood beside him. we had hoped the security council would move forward, but russia made it known as it has done seven times before that it would use its veto once again covering up for the assad regime. further delay by compromising with russia for a watered down resolution would have only strengthened assad. strengthening assad will only lead to more murders. we were not going to allow that. but it's even more than that. russia's supposed to be a guarantor of the removal of chemical weapons from syria. think about that. russia is supposed to have removed all the chemical weapons from syria. but obviously that has not happened. as innocent syrians continue to be murdered in chemical attacks. let's think about the possible reasons for russia's failure.
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it could be that russia is knowingly allowing chemical weapons to remain in syria. it could be that russia has been incompetent in its efforts to remove the chemical weapons. or it could be that the assad regime is playing the russians for fools. telling them that there are no chemical weapons all the while stockpiling them on their bases. the world is waiting for the russian government to act responsibly in syria. the world is waiting for russia to reconsider its misplaced alliance with assad. the united states will no longer wait for assad to use chemical weapons without any consequences. those days are over. but now we must move to a new phase. a drive toward a political solution to this horrific conflict. we expect the syrian regime and its allies to take the u.n. political process seriously. something they of not done up until this point.
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we expect russia and iran to hold their ally accountable and abide by the terms of the cease-fire. we expect this council to speak loudly and forcefully when the regime or its allies undermine the political process and kindless of our own resolutions. 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. thank you. i will now resume my function as the president of the council and i give the floor to the representative of the syrian arab republic. >> so there you heard the united states ambassador to the united nations -- actually, let's
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listen in. this is the syrian representative to the united nations speaking before the security council. >> translator: that joined us in calling for the convening of this urgent meeting. i have a question at the very outset to the secretary general who stated that syrian arab republic perpetrated an act of aggression without defining the terms of that act without the charter of the united nations. the united states at 3:42 at dawn today, april 7, 2017, waged a barbaric flagrant act of
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aggression against a base of the syrian arab air force in the central area of the country using a number of missiles which led to a number of mortars, many injured including women and children and wide ranging material damage. this treacherous act of aggression is a great violation of the charter of the united nations as well as all international norms and laws. the united states attempted to justify it with empty pretexts, fabricated arguments claiming that the syrian arab army had used chemical weapons without genuine knowledge of what happened without identifying who was responsible. the very same pretext shouted out by terrorist organizations
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as well as their handlers in washington, london and paris as well as the media. the syrian arab republic has stressed that the syrian arab army does not have chemical weapons in the first place. and that it would never use such weapons in any of its operations against armed terrorist groups. that it condemns the use of such weapons as being unjustified under any conditions. let me stress that it is well known that those weapons have been used and stockpiled in many parts of syria by terrorist armed organizations in cooperation or rather with a wink and a nudge by some ruling regimes in the region and outside including turkey, soud
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sawe -- on the use of chemical weapons by terrorists in many parts of the arab republic. this aggression would surely send erroneous messages to those terrorist groups involving them to use chemical weapons in the future and to continue perpetrating terrorist acts against the syrians. a associated terrorist organizations did wage many attacks on many parts of syria and its allies in the war against terrorism confronting them despite desperate attempts to support them. the american aggression is under this umbrella. this condemnable aggression is a
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grave extraplation of the same erroneous american strategy that began six years ago, one of providing all forms of assistance to what the united states called moderate arm opposition groups. this strategy harms counter terrorism by the syrian arab army and its partners and makes the united states a partner of isil and other terrorist groups that since day one of the the unjust war against syria have attacked army positions and military bases as well as the infrastructure. let me recall to this council that the united states leads a purported alliance against isil. however, the real achievements of that coalition is to kill civilians and to strike at infrastructure in syria. its real objective is to weaken the syrian arab army and its allies when confronting
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terrorist groups. in this regard we see the air strike by the aircraft of this coalition illegal against the syrian arab army in the city in an attempt to protect isil elements falling between syrian and iraqi territory and opening a cor doridor for them. today's aggression aimed at saving the -- following the grave damage that was done to them by the syrian arab army and its allies in the center of the country following their attack on cities and peaceful villages in the region. let me also stress media reports tell us the u.s. congress some time ago approved a law allowing the u.s. administration to send
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manu oh to -- we have learned two days ago in this very council that the permanent member states in the security council, the three colonialists have a renewed appetite to renew their lies and their stories that have been spread by the united states and the united kingdom 14 years ago to justify the instruction and occupation of iraq. using a major lie being wmds, perhaps history has come full circle in a regrettable scenario. when we saw secretary of state colin powell at the time trying to delude the international community and the united nations to justify the aggression of his country against iraq by talking about highly credible information. today the united states of america in its policy in an attempt to justify its aggression against syria is using fabricated information
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provided by terrorists. this aggression proves that syria has been correct. that successive american administrations will not change the policies which is the target states to make people kneel to their i will. international opinion, the people of the free world have no doubt that the successive united, the uk and french administrations for decades have not cared for democracy or freedom or human rights. indeed, let alone the well-being of peoples or their security and stability. these are just pretext to wage war, to occupant other states, to divide them, to control their wealth and energy resources. what is truly disgusting today is that these governments that supported the thinking, the
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terrorist extremist ideology of the entity since its creation is today orchestrating terrorism and investing in it without any care for the lives of people, even their own people when terrorism reached their own -- >> you've been listening to the deputy, syrian ambassador to the united nations. he's speaking right now. a very, very different assessment clearly than what the u.s. ambassador to the u.n. nikki haley just reported and earlier the russian ambassador to the u.n. security council. lots to unpack right now. i want to bring in our panel of experts. joining us our jim, cnn political analyst david gregory, former state department and pentagon spokesman john kirby. also former u.s. congresswoman jane harmon. jim, let me get to nikki haley
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first. because she was very precise. she went after the iranian support for the syrian regime of bashar al assad. she went after the russian support and she said the world is waiting for the russian government to act responsibly. this comes after barbara starr's reporting that the pentagon is now investigating possible russian involvement in that initial chemical attack that killed so many civilians including kids. >> ambassador haley also held out the prospect of further military action. she said if we're not satisfied they're keeping that option on the table. it was a few days ago that nikki haley somewhat telegraphed this action. said the u.s. may have to act alone and the u.s. acted alone last night. i think that's important putting rush and syria and others on notice. the other point i would make is the syrian position you heard there, the russian position before that it's not clear who carried out this attack or what kind of attack it was is just
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frankly laughable. because they know that the u.s. has the capabilities and has said that they did. they tracked the planes from that airstrip over that target. they have infrared sensors, satellites that could track the explosions when the bombs dropped out. and we know based on barbara's reporting that it was a russian made plane came back five hours later and dropped another bomb which is raising the question whether the russians were complicit in trying to destroy the evidence. the idea that this is an open question as to what happened, not to mention turkish doctors are doing autopsies on the victims and finding traces of gas. the u.s. has the assets to determine who carried it out. >> the u.s. ambassador also said six years into the war, maybe half a million people have been killed. millions more made homeless.
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the days are over for the u.s. to wait for some sort of diplomatic solution especially when chemical weapons are used. >> that conveys to me this wasn't a one off. when we heard secretary tillerson, he left that impression. no change to our policy in syria. this will be a retaliatory strike. what i heard today is they are willing to consider future military action. when you do that, you really are tipping the scales in this civil war which is something the united states hasn't done before. that's going to beg i would suggest much more conversation on the hill about authorities. >> jane, toipt bring yi want to. where is the trump administration going as far as military action in syria is concern snd. >> well, let me point out the irony of the iranians possibly being part of the bad group. when they were the victims of
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vicious chemical attacks by iraq in the late '80s, and 100,000 were either killed or wounded from those attacks. that set the stage for a lot of what came after. but on this i applaud the trump administration and ambassador haley for what they have just done. however, your question i think, wolf, is where's the strategy? this is a good tactic. if there's a follow on that finely targeted, i would probably be for that. congress needs to get into this. nancy pelosi was right when she called for congress to come back into special session to debate and hopefully pass an authorization to use military force. i assume the legal basis for this action by the trump administration is the tired old aumf that everybody but one, including me, passed in 2001 authorizing action in afghanistan against those who attacked us on 9/11.
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this is a far stretch from that. the public needs to be brought into a debate about where we should be going and it's years late. and we still don't have a real strategy for our actions in the middle east. this could be a huge credit to the trump administration if they call for an aumf, if congress rises to the indication and we do have a strategy that's well understood. >> everybody stand by. david, we're going to get to you. we've got to take a quick break. there are other developments emerging. syria as you just heard declaring that the strikes make the united states a partner of isis. will this embolden the syrian president bashar al assad? that and much more when we come back. arc lithium battery technology, it delivers the cutting-torque of gas. the ego mower's durable construction makes mowing in difficult conditions easy. the self-propelled model makes it effortless.
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remember - these plans let you apply all year round. so call today. because now's the perfect time to learn more. go long. . following the breaking news our pentagon correspondent barbara starr saying the pentagon is investigating possible russian involvement in the chemical attack in syria that included so many civilians that killed lots of children and had a huge impact on president trump and his going forward and ordering that tomahawk crews missile strike against that syrian air base last night. david gregory, you've been watching all of this unfold. give us your thoughts on where
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the situation stands right now. >> well, i'm really focused on where the situation is going to stand. how does president trump want this to end? i thought his u.n. ambassador nikki haley was incredibly strong. a lot stronger than him frankly and more thorough and more plain spoken in laying out the case for this strike and a strong takedown of russia, something that he, the president as john was just saying, has not done himse himself. but his ambassador of the u.n. has been blaming russia appropriately for this and facilitating his chemical weapons program. they have to answer for the fact that those chemical weapons in that program still exist when apparently with the obama administration everybody was so excited instead of a strike we were able to get those weapons put away. this is a forceful response from president trump but what now? either they want assad never to use chemical weapons again in which case what's the
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negotiation like with russia to make that happen and can you rush them or do they want regime change? frankly this administration is saying one thing one day, one thing another. that is really sloppy at the very least and strategically dangerous. if they are going to push regime change, that's a big deal. the united states setting ourselves up for a real showdown with russia. that's the story we're going to be looking at hard in the next few days. >> and maybe airan as well. you heard what nikki hail le just said. want just going after the russians but the iranians who are supporting the assad regime. william cohen is joining us. he was the secretary of defense during the bill clinton administration. you have confidence, secretary, in the direction of this trump administration strategy in dealing with the syrian regime? >> well, we don't know the strategy. we know that there was a strike and the question will become is there a comprehensive strategy
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looking at both syria, russia to be sure, but also iran. there has to be a comprehensive strategy dealing with the entire region. otherwise, we're going towndown alley where we're not sure the end will be. i applaud what trump has done and i believe secretary tillerson and secretary mattis have really made a case to president trump to take this action and i'm glad he has done so. but i think taking it a step further, we have to see what the plan is and i agree that congress has to be brought in. they have to be briefed. they have to be brought on board because this is going to be much bigger than one strike. if others are to follow, there has to be a much greater participation by congress. >> as you know, this changes the overall u.s. strategy. for six years of this civil war, of this brutal war in syria, the obama administration hit very isis targets in syria but never
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once went directly after a syrian government military position, a position of the syrian regime. all of a sudden president trump orders a strike against the syrian military base. this changes the overall u.s. direction, right? >> it does change the policy towards syria to be sure. i want to make pop othone other. when the russians say this is a violation of international law, really, the russians shot down or their pawns shot down the malaysian jet. 17 as i recall three years ago. they refused to allow the international community to come in and make any kind of a finding as to who was responsible. so we can't take their denial. it's denial, deflection and deceit auto the deceit on their part. this does mark a change on our relationship of what president trump hoped to have and russia
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is being exposed for what it really is and that is a supporter of a really corrupt regime. so i think it's going to change our relationship. it's going to i think cause president trump to become more engaged. he wants to come back to america. he wants to have nation building here at home. but the reality is that the world's a dangerous place. yes, he inherited it. he also campaigned for it so now it's time for him to campaign a strategy in dealing with all the elements there are in the world, pulling his team together. beefing up the state department. rex tillerson needs a deputy. he needs a big staff to help him work all of these issues because every single issue is related to the rest of the world. and you can't just do one piece at a time. it has to be comprehensive. >> stand by for a moment, secretary. jane harmon is still with us. were you pleased or not pleased when the u.s. changed the strategy towards the syrian regime last night by launching
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this first u.s. strike against the syrian military target? >> i was pleased and i wish that president obama had done this in 2013 when at least half his advisors urged him to and when va syria was a simpler problem. i agree with bill, i wouldn't call that a strategy. i call it a tactic. the question is what is the strategy. i'm urging that congress engage because it's congress's role to authorize the use of military force and that would help bring the expertise that congress clearly has on both sides of the aisle. people calling for this today i think are john mccain, lindsey graham, tim kaine and others. congress should say in session. the senate i guess is just adjourning now after the vote on gorsuch. they should stay in session. they should do this now and then the trump administration working with them ought to show some
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bipartisanship and clear american resolve to solve this. >> one of the issues with congress, though, is that congress, and i think jane would agree with this, has totally shirked its responsibility. for years now and failed. haven't had the guts to have a real debate about how much power the president should have. president obama was happy to keep all the executive authority just like president bush was. there should be a broader strategy. there's a big question here. do you want to take out the assad leadership, his regime? putin wants to keep his guy there and focus on isis. i think that will be part of the backdrop. >> you're suggesting this is not necessarily a one off. this is the beginning of a new -- a sear rries of actions against the military. >> absolutely. you have to expect more strikes like this on the assad regime and their infrastructure. when you do that now you are in new territory.
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you're in new waters. up to now the fight has been against isis and isis only. and we've been working on a aumf that was designed for al qaeda and afghanistan and they wrreret willing to give president obama an aumf. the other things they need to worry about and i agree with jane that they need to have a robust discussion on the hill. is expectation manage ment. now you're starting to see turkey applauded these strikes and now they're calling for no fly zones. opposition groups are applauding the strikes and now they want and will probably expect more aggressive military action on the ground. >> the other point i would make on that is this was very tailored to chemical weapons. you can say is just syria, although the pentagon is now investigating whether russia was involved. but if dow broader attacks on the syrian military that is a more direct -- they've specifically reengaged in syria
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to protect that. that would really put you at odds with russia. >> they have no love of asad but they don't want to see that regime collapse in an unstructured way. russia has a long defense relationship with syria. they don't want to give up their foot hold in the middle east. >> secretary cohen, a quick question. should the trump administration now wait for congressional action passing of legislation authorizing the use of military force before taking additional direct military action against various syrian military targets? i think the president always has the power to act unilaterally when time does not allow for a full discussion. i think this action was authorized. i don't think he had to go to congress for this power. but to the extent this is the beginning of something much larger and it's going to affect multiple parties, multiple countries, then i think it's time for congress at least to vt opportunity to be heard. i don't expect them to be in
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favor of any action as been pointed out by david gregory. congress has not exactly been a braveheart when it comes to making ze making decisions on critical issues. >> congress has not been a brave heart and congress doesn't want to own the problem. on both sides they've let the president do what he does and then if it goes wrong, it's his fault. but i think that time has to be over. this is way too serious. and our engagement in the world is at issue and getting the middle east right would be an enormous victory for the trump administration. >> everybody stand by. there's more news coming in. including donald trump's about face when it comes to syria after directing these military strikes. how will all this impact his america first policy? the white house press secretary sean spicer just had an off-camera briefing. we're going to get an update on that when we come back. you do all this research
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the white house press secretary sean spicer just wrapped up an off-camera briefing down in palm beach, florida, giving more details about the time line of the tomahawk missiles. let's go to jeff zeleny. what did you hear from sean spicer? >> reporter: sean spicer articulated the timeline that the president went through starting on tuesday morning at 10:30 a.m. that led to his final decision around 4:00 on thursday afternoon when he made that decision to strike and go ahead with this. but wolf, we also learned another piece of interesting information, how the president
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informed his chinese counterpart that, in fact, he had ordered these military strikes in syria. now, sean spicer said in revealing this for the first time, it was after their dinner last evening that was supposed to be the focal point of this big week of foreign policy for this administration, that the u.s. president reached out to his chinese counterpart, president xi jinping, and said, look, i have made this strike against syria. he said -- spicer said this. after the dinner had concluded, the impact had already been made. it happened around 8:30 or so, that the strikes started. the president informed president xi that that was happening. this, of course, security and threats have been a central part of this meeting here in mar-a-lago, the threats of north korea. but the fact that on the eve of their big discussion this morning, that president trump had to inform his counterpart of
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the use of action certainly changed the tone of this meeting here. but otherwise, wolf, we have not heard from the president yet today on the syria strike. his advisers are briefing folks on capitol hill and others trying to answer the central question here, what is next for this policy going forward. the administration has yet to articulate if this will change its policy towards syria. sean spicer pushed back on the notion that this will interrupt t the critics of this. >> jeff zeleny covering the president's estate down there, important talks with the leader of china as well. jeff, thanks very much. that's it for me. i'll be back 5:00 p.m. eastern in "the situation room." the news here on cnn, and there's lots of it, will continue right after a quick break. starts a chain reaction... ...that's heard throughout the connected business world.
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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.