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North Korea Fires Missile Ahead Of Trump-China Meeting; Soon: U.N. Ambassador Haley Speaks About Syria Attack; Trump Condemns Syria Attack And Blames Obama; McCain: U.S. Should Dedicate Itself To Removing Assad; Schiff: Rice May Testify In Russia Probe; Two House Dems Predict Some Trump Aides Will Be Jailed; Now: U.N. Meeting On Suspected Gas Attack In Syria. Aired 11-11:30a ET
Aired April 5, 2017 - 11:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: Not one, but two international crises now on the president's desk. The horror playing out in Syria and now North Korea firing another ballistic missile.
This hour, the president will be welcoming a key ally to the White House, Jordan's King Abdullah, and we will also hear from them live a little later today. Will the president speak publicly about the apparent chemical attack that killed dozens of people including children in Syria and what will the king of Jordan, Syria's neighbor have to say in return? Stand by for that.
Syria and North Korea also providing the first major test for the new U.N. ambassador to the United Nations. Nikki Haley is getting ready to address all of that at the U.N. Security Council. We will have her comments and we'll bring those to you live.
An important moment there. Let's get over the important place right now. Jeff Zeleny, he's at the White House with much more on this. So Jeff, the White House put out a statement about the chemical attack in Syria yesterday, but this will be the first time that we could hear from the president since putting out that statement. What are you picking up from the White House?
JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Indeed, Kate, we are being told now that the White House is drafting comments right now that the president will be delivering later today early this afternoon in the Rose Garden, and it will be about Syria. It will be about the chemical attack and really this will be fascinating to watch what the president says specifically about this.
ZELENY: Because he said in a statement yesterday he called it reprehensible, but of course, the question is what does this administration intend to do with the Assad regime? He had some criticism of President Obama, of course, that Syria red line and we have not yet got a full sense of what this president believes and in fact what his policy toward a Syria. So we will get a much more, you know, direct picture from him in a couple of hours when he has an outdoor news conference in the Rose Garden -- Kate.
BOLDUAN: And that, of course, Jeff is just one crisis and just today. Tomorrow the president is going to be welcoming the Chinese president, and they'll be meeting. We know, they have said that North Korea is going to come up, but then they have this new provocative action. What is the word from the White House on that?
ZELENY: Well, the White House is keeping a very close eye on North Korea. That indeed is going to be the centerpiece of the discussions the president has when he invites the president of China to Mar-a-Lago beginning tomorrow and Friday.
And I talked to a senior administration official saying that time is running out here. This is a very urgent threat. So we're getting a sense of what, you know, the administration's posture toward this.
We also had a very brief and terse statement from the Secretary of State Rex Tillerson last night on the latest of firing of a ballistic missile from North Korea.
He said this, "North Korea launched yet another intermediate change ballistic missile. The United States has spoken enough about North Korea. We have no further comment."
That is fine to have no further comment, but that does not mean the problem, of course, has gone away here. So Kate, I am told that will be the centerpiece of the discussions tomorrow. The U.S. would like China's help on this emerging and very real and serious threat of North Korea -- Kate.
BOLDUAN: Yes, how much -- how long can the silent treatment work and what actual impact does it have is a key question. Jeff, a lot going on over there today. Thank you so much.
Let's talk more about this with former CIA and FBI official, Phil Mudd. He is joining me now. Phil, great to see you. A lot to get to. When it comes to Syria, there is this element that I think is really important to get to.
All of the chemical weapons from the country were supposedly moved out of the country and destroyed in 2014. That was a big deal back then. If you were back in your former post, what questions are you asking among the intel community? Should the intel community have known about this?
PHILIP MUDD, CNN COUNTERTERRORISM ANALYST: Look, the questions you're asking and it's not clear to me they didn't know, by the way, Kate. The questions you're asking are, how confident can we be going to the White House that we know what happened here?
Obviously, the Russians have an alternate view. I doubt they're telling the truth, but before the president takes action. He darn well better have some servitude about what Assad was doing here. I think he's about 98 percent certain that this was the Syrian regime, but that's the first question you have for the White House if you're at the CIA. The second is a question that the CIA and the Defense Department share. If the president wants to take military action, what are the kinds of targets that might show up on the table? What targets are militarily significant?
What targets might be producing these kinds of munitions and the most interesting question, what targets will bring the most pain to Bashar al-Assad. I think that's got to be on the table.
BOLDUAN: That's a lot of conversations and that's a lot of where the conversations on Capitol Hill and what lawmakers think and would like to see the president making move to do. Again, we haven't heard any plan on where the position is from this president yet, why today is so key when he's going to be speaking.
But if we want to talk about another country where we have little to no intelligence on is North Korea, Phil. I mean, making yet another provocative move overnight.
[11:05:01]The response from the secretary of state, 23 words, Jeff Zeleny read it for you, but it basically says we've said enough. We're not going to say anymore. Is the silent treatment the right response right now?
MUDD: You can't have the silent treatment forever on this for the very reason that the South Koreans, Japanese, everybody else is looking at the Americans and saying what are you going to do? So eventually whether it's Nikki Haley at the U.N. or the White House in conversations with the Chinese and a press conference after or whether Rex Tillerson who has been the most silent secretary of state in history says something, you've got to say something.
I think there's one point here that we're learning from Secretary Tillerson's statement. When you get in the oval office the American people think that the president can do anything and when you look at the history of North Korea like the history we had with trying to contain the Pakistanis.
They've had a nuclear weapon for 20-plus years. There's not much you can do if the other party, that is the North Koreans, does not want to play.
BOLDUAN: It's fascinating. We are just getting an e-mail here from Jim Acosta, who is speaking to a senior administration official who said North Korea's launch of the ballistic missile was, quote, "a spectacular failure." The official adds that the missile exploded approximately 55 seconds after launch. I guess that's not the silent treatment anymore. Maybe it still is.
MUDD: That's not the answer. We've had an acceleration in the North Korean missile program going back months and years. There's talk of miniaturization of nuclear weapons, so to say that this one was a failure just puts -- kicks the can down the road. Eventually the White House will have to say are we going to do something or not in the wake of failures for years about trying to contain the North Koreans. BOLDUAN: When time is running out, time is running out to what? What's next when that clock ticks down? Great to see you, Phil. Thank you.
MUDD: Thank you.
BOLDUAN: All right. Let's talk more about this and a very important day. Joining me now, Republican congressman from Kentucky, Congressman Thomas Massie.
Congressman, thank you very much for the time.
REP. THOMAS MASSIE (R), KENTUCKY: Thank you, Kate. Thanks for having me on.
BOLDUAN: Of course. You've seen these horrific images. Let's talk about Syria first. You've seen these horrific images of people, children, coming out of Syria right now.
No public statements from -- no public comments from the president yesterday but then a statement. He calls it "reprehensible" but then the president blames it on Obama, saying this, in part.
He said, "These heinous actions by the Bashar al-Assad regime are the consequence of past administration's weakness and irresolution."
Congressman, is the solution to this problem blaming the president before him?
MASSIE: It breaks my heart to see those images of the victims, I have to say that.
Let me tell you, Kate, the only issue I've received more phone calls on, other than the Affordable Care Act, if you will, was going to war in Syria in 2013. President Obama said that Assad crossed a red line in 2013, if you remember.
And he said that we should go to war with Assad, that Assad must go, but -- and he came to Congress for authorization. We never gave it to him because constituents melted our phone lines. Frankly, people want us to take out ISIS, I believe, but it's dubious as to whether it serves the American interests to take out Assad.
BOLDUAN: Right, but that goes directly to my question. The president's only public statement so far has been to blame President Obama for inaction. Is blaming President Obama the answer here?
MASSIE: I don't believe so. I'm not going to blame Obama. He's gone. It's ours to deal with now and, you know, I appreciate that President Trump campaigned on a more restrained foreign policy and I hope that's what we see in Syria and North Korea.
BOLDUAN: So you have fellow Republican, John McCain; he has a very different position than you on Syria. I want to play for you what he said this morning and what he would like to hear from President Trump following this. Listen. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: I want to say -- I wanted to hear him say we will arm the Free Syrian Army. We're going to dedicate ourselves to the removal of Bashar al-Assad. We're going to have the Russians pay a price for their engagement. The Iranians and Hezbollah are also heavily involved.
All players here will have to pay a penalty and the United States of America is going to be on the side of people who fight for freedom. And we will not sit by and watch chemical weapons being used to slaughter innocent women and children.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BOLDUAN: That's John McCain speaking out yesterday.
Congressman, you are against intervention. You say that is what you hear from constituents and you say that's what you heard from your constituents previously.
But as you sit here today and you see these images coming out, of the slaughter of innocent children, does that change your view?
MASSIE: Well, with all due respect to the senator from Arizona, he's wrong and he's not expressing the will of the American people.
But I hope that the senator and I can agree that President Trump cannot unilaterally attack a country. He cannot commit an act of war against a sovereign nation without a vote in Congress.
[11:10:07]So this really isn't up to Rex Tillerson or the president at this point.
BOLDUAN: If the president of Syria is committing crimes against humanity, slaughtering his own people, do you think there is something short of going to war with Syria that you can support?
Your fellow Republican, Adam Kissinger, says, yes, there is something short of that. You can ground Assad's air force. You can crater the airstrips that the air force is taking off from to commit these atrocities. Can you get on board with that?
MASSIE: Well, I can't speak about classified information on TV but I can tell you, according to "The Washington Post," we've been spending $1 billion a year in funding the rebels in Syria to no good effect, frankly.
BOLDUAN: Oh, but that's not funding the rebels. What do you think about grounding Assad's air force?
MASSIE: I -- well, you know, we had testimony from a military expert in front of Congress that said that's a virtual act of war in Syria and that we would be at war with the Russians at that point. I think it's a bad idea.
BOLDUAN: Earlier today, Congressman, Bana -- she's a little Syrian girl who has become really the voice of all Syrian children in this war. She spoke to CNN and here is what she said that her wish is. Listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BANA ALABED, SYRIAN REFUGEE: I want to stop the war and I want the children of Syria play and go to school, live in peace. We can -- together, we can help them. Together, we can save them.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BOLDUAN: To be clear, what she said right there is that's all she wants. She wants for the children of Syria to be able to play and go to school. She's pleading for help. What do you say to her, Congressman?
MASSIE: I think what she's asking for is something that all children should enjoy and I think that our intervention in Syria has prolonged the civil war and it is not helping there.
President Trump campaigned on a more restrained fiscal -- or, I'm sorry, a more restrained foreign policy and I hope that's what we see and, you know, we haven't created a better school environment for the children in Iraq, frankly, by destabilizing that country. And I don't think it serves the children of Syria or anybody in the United States to further destabilize Syria.
BOLDUAN: So you say -- you see these -- you hear that plea from her, you see the images coming out of Syria and you think the best policy for the United States right now is to do nothing?
MASSIE: What I'm saying is we could -- we might end up making the situation worse if we launch airstrikes, if we -- against their airplanes, against hard targets on the ground. So we really need to step back and take a good look at this.
The first casualty of war is the truth and it's hard to know exactly what's happening in Syria right now. I would like to know specifically how that release of chemical gas, if it did occur -- and it looks like it did, how that occurred because I don't -- frankly, I don't think Assad would have done that.
It does not serve his interests. It would tend to draw us into that civil war even further.
BOLDUAN: Who do you think -- who do you think is behind it? You think -- who do you think is behind it?
MASSIE: You know, you've got a war going on over there. Supposedly, that airstrike was on an ammo dump and so I don't know if it was released because there was gas stored in the ammo dump or not. That's plausible. I'm not saying that's what I think happened. But I think --
BOLDUAN: You're more inclined to believe the position of what Bashar al-Assad is saying and what the Russians are saying right now than more inclined to agree with -- believe what you -- even your colleagues here in the United States believe is true, that this is Assad and what human rights observers over there say is Assad?
MASSIE: I don't think it would have served Assad's purposes to do a chemical attack on his people. So I, you know, it's hard for me to understand why he would do that if he did.
BOLDUAN: Congressman Tom Massie, thanks for your time.
MASSIE: Thank you, Kate.
BOLDUAN: Coming up for us, I will be surprised if people don't end up going to jail, that's a pretty startling prediction from some Democrats about the outcome of the Russia investigations just as they are just getting underway. Do Democrats have proof of this?
Also Ivanka Trump speaking out for the first time since taking an official post at the White House. What she says about disagreeing with her father on some very thorny big issues.
And we are going to take you live to the Syrian border and we are also going to take you live right there, that is the U.N. Security Council.
We are waiting to hear from U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, Nikki Haley. She will be speaking publicly for the first time since the suspected chemical attack that killed dozens of people including children. We are going to bring it to you live.
BOLDUAN: Signs of progress in the House investigation into Russia and intelligence leaks and now a new potential witness. The top Democrat on the Intelligence Committee Adam Schiff says he's open to having former Obama national security adviser, Susan Rice, come testify. Listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REPRESENTATIVE ADAM SCHIFF (D), RANKING MEMBER, INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: If she has pertinent testimony, I'm sure she will be invited as will others.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BOLDUAN: This comes as Susan Rice is pushing back against allegations that she deliberately unmasked names of President Trump's associates from intelligence reports for political purposes.
Joining me now to discuss this the state of play and what's going on, on Capitol Hill right now, quite honestly, Democratic Congressman James Clyburn. Congressman, thanks for coming in.
REPRESENTATIVE JAMES CLYBURN (D), SOUTH CAROLINA: Thank you very much for having me.
BOLDUAN: Do you think Susan Rice should testify before the committees?
CLYBURN: I don't see anything that's untoward about that? Susan Rice has been before committees often. I think that she expects to give testimony when asked. I have observed her over the years, and I don't think she has anything to hide or to be ashamed of. She carried out her duties and responsibilities in a normal way.
[11:20:02]Her job entailed requesting that things or people be unmasked and the job of the Intelligence Committee or group is to approve or disapprove. If they approve, fine. If they don't approve, you should go on to the next request.
So that's all that took place here. So all of this is to camouflage, is to deflect, is to keep the attention off of where the problems really are, and it all cries out for why the independent commission doing this because their --
BOLDUAN: You say that, Congressman, but -- you say that this is to deflect and many Democrats are, but at the end of the day, you are talking about someone in Susan Rice who comes with political baggage. She was a political appointee who was asking for information involving an opponent, of sorts, if you will.
If the shoe was on the other foot, if this was former national security advisor, Condoleezza Rice, wouldn't you have some questions that you would want answered and wouldn't think it was a distraction.
CLYBURN: No. I would want an independent commission. I don't care whose feet are being placed in the shoes. The fact of the matter is we ought to have an independent commission looking at this. This is not anything that ought to be mired in any kind of political controversy.
And you cannot get politics out of the Congress and out of political appointments and let's just forget all of this. Bring on an independent commission that will do this the way 9/11 did or go all of the way back to Watergate.
Because I'll tell you something, I was around when -- I wasn't here in the Congress, but I remember Watergate very well, and I can tell you these issues surrounding Russia, surrounding this campaign, last year's campaign, surrounding President Trump or just as critical if not more so than Watergate was.
BOLDUAN: But the fact of the matter is, Congressman, Democrats don't have the power to make an independent commission happen or even a select committee happen. I mean, the reporting from the Hill right now is that the House committee is showing some signs of getting its investigation back on track. Those who have the power to call for an independent commission or have the power to call for a select committee, they are not going to do that so do you think this committee can turn things around?
CLYBURN: I don't think the House committee can. I think that Nunes has already made it very clear where he is. He is not going to change from that. I think the public knows that. The public wants an independent commission, and irrespective of what the Republicans or Democrats may want, let the public weigh in on this, and I really believe we'll get to an independent commission. Nobody will voluntarily give up their power and authority. I understand that, but the public has a way of making us listen.
BOLDUAN: So Democrats, of course, they talk quite a bit about smoke -- the smoke surrounding Russia and this president. No one so far has found fire, but that has not stopped two of your colleagues. Listen to this, Congressman.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Have you seen any hard evidence of collusion yet?
REPRESENTATIVE JOAQUIN CASTRO (D), TEXAS: I guess I would say this, that my impression is that I wouldn't be surprised if after all of this is said and done that some people end up in jail.
REPRESENTATIVE DENNY HECK (D), WASHINGTON: He said he would not be surprised if people ended up going to jail. I would be surprised if people don't end up going to jail.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BOLDUAN: Congressman, do you agree or are they getting out in front of the investigation a bit?
CLYBURN: Look, you know, I don't like that kind of discussion. This stuff that took place in the campaign last year, put her in jail, this person, if you ask him for immunity you are guilty of a crime. These kinds of things come back to bite you.
What I would like for us to do is get to the bottom of this and irrespective of whether anybody goes to jail, let's make sure that we have a political process that all of the voting public can believe in, be comfortable with and that ought to be the criteria that we move forward on.
And if anybody were to pay a price of incarceration as a result of the roles they played, that's something else again. Let's just make sure that we clean up our act. We have good, dependable, electoral processes. That's why we need to look at our voter empowerment act that the Democrats have been pushing now for five or six years.
BOLDUAN: So first things first, let the investigation play out before you are talking about locking anybody up.
BOLDUAN: Congressman James Clyburn, it's always great to have you. Thank you, sir.
CLYBURN: Thank you.
BOLDUAN: Coming up for us, I want to take you to a live look at the United Nations Security Council right now. U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Nikki Haley will soon be delivering a response to the horrific chemical attack in Syria that killed dozens including children.
[11:25:05]What will she say? Who will she blame? I wonder if she heard what Congressman Tom Massie had to say. We will take you live to the U.N. Security Council in just a moment.
Plus, President Trump preparing to greet the king of Jordan at the White House where the two will be holding a very important joint press conference. It was important before and it takes on more importance today when we see the crisis playing out overseas. Will President Trump talk about Syria? We'll take you there live.
BOLDUAN: You're looking live right now at live pictures of the United Nations Security Council and they're holding an emergency session today. The meeting was called in response to reports of the suspected gas attack in Syria that killed dozens of people.
This morning, Amnesty International has said this, that they believe a nerve agent such as sarin gas was deployed from the air after analyzing dozens of videos from the attack site.
U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Nikki Haley might be speaking next. We'll be bringing you her comments the moment they begin. We'll get to CNN senior international correspondent, Ben Wedeman. He's live from the Syria-Turkey border and very close to area of the chemical attack. Ben, what are you hearing there? What are you learning?
BEN WEDEMAN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, we spoke to some of the victims in a Turkish hospital here who were at the scene in (inaudible) inside Syria. We spoke to one young man, 13 years old, who said at 6:30 in the morning he heard an airstrike. He ran up to the roof of his building and saw an explosion that had happened right outside his grandfather's home.
So he ran across the street, up the block to the home and he found his grandfather slumped over, lifeless. He said he looked like he'd been asphyxiated. When he saw that he ran outside in the street and called for the neighbors to help, but, of course, he was breathing all of the fumes in the area. He started to feel dizzy and he fainted, and woke up in a Turkish hospital.