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Rep. Lee: Trump Needs Congressional Authorization for Military Escalation in Syria; Syria Says U.S. Now Partners of ISIS, Other Terrorists; Man Drives Stolen Truck into Crowd in Stockholm. Aired 2:30-3p ET
Aired April 7, 2017 - 14:30 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[14:30:22] BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN ANCHOR: So many people in Washington, D.C., Democrats, Republicans, they're applauding President Trump's decision to launch the Tomahawk missiles into Syria. Some lawmakers are calling it impulsive, dangerous and even unlawful. But is it an act of war?
That's how my next guest is characterizing last night's missile launch against a Syrian air base. Democratic Congresswoman Barbara Lee says, quote, "If President Trump wants to escalate U.S. involvement in yet another war, he should immediately send a new Authorization for Use of Military Force to Congress, and Speaker Ryan must bring it to the House floor for debate and vote without delay."
Congresswoman Lee is with me now.
Nice to see you, Congresswoman.
REP. BARBARA LEE, (D), CALIFORNIA: Glad to be with you.
BALDWIN: Tell me why you believe this was an act of war.
LEE: This is an act of war because any time a country bombs a sovereign nation with no authority, no legal authority, that constitutes an act of war. And here in the United States, first of all, we must insist that members of Congress do their job and if, in fact, we're going to engage in warfare, we need an authorization and a vote, an up or down vote, because this is our job as members of Congress. And let me say, my heart goes out to the Syrian people, the use of chemical weapons. That's barbaric. We cannot tolerate that. One surgical strike is not going to stop that. We need to get back into Washington, D.C., and vote up or down on where we go once we know what the president's plan is.
BALDWIN: There's one argument that had to be made because of the atrocities that were made in Idlib when then President Obama decided to go before Congress as you're requesting before hitting Syria and faced so much resistance and couldn't get a vote. No one wanted to own the potentially next Iraq. How would you respond to that? How do you say no? You are passionate for these young lives lost.
LEE: These are very tough decisions. That's why we're elected and why the American people should demand that Speaker Ryan call for a debate and authorization. You know, for many years, many of us have called for an increase in our numbers in terms of refugees. The president is putting a ban on refugees from Syria so those kinds of contradictions are very apparent. One surgical strike is not going to stop these barbaric acts. We need to have a full plan and it has to be international in scope. We have to work with the bodies to come up with a political solution. We need to address issues as it relates to Russia and its complicity with, you know, Assad and how they are conducting this horrific damage and carnage in Syria and so the only way we can come up with a plan for a political settlement with the United States involved is through a debate in Congress and a vote. The American people deserve that.
BALDWIN: I understand. And president talked about how Syria was the main issue that really, really haunted him. And, again, this is a strike that has received praise from John McCain and Lindsey Graham, and all the way to the other side of the spectrum to Hillary Clinton. Let me play what she said when asked about Syria.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
HILLARY CLINTON, FORMER SECRETARY OF STATE: I really believe that we should have and still should take out his airfields and prevent him from being able to use them to bomb innocent people and drop sarin gas on them.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BALDWIN: She said that before the world learned what the White House had done. Do you, Congresswoman Lee, give President Trump any credit for having the guts to do something that President Obama couldn't quite bring himself to do?
LEE: I don't think it's about having guts. I think one surgical strike is not going to stop Assad from using chemical weapons, nor is it going to stop him from wreaking havoc on the Syrian people. What we need to do, and I will say this again, is come together with the international community and the United Nations and come up with a comprehensive strategy because it's only a political solution that's going to address this. Most military experts will tell you and have said that there's --
[14:35:09] BALDWIN: But we've been waiting for that, Congresswoman.
BALDWIN: We've been waiting for that, for people to come together.
LEE: Yes. We have to insist on that. That's why we're asking Speaker Ryan to call us back into Washington, D.C., and put forth an authorization to use force and vote up or down, and that way the public will understand the costs and consequences of what we are doing.
BALDWIN: Congresswoman Barbara Lee, thank you for your time. I appreciate it.
LEE: Glad to be with you, Brooke.
BALDWIN: Thank you.
Straight ahead, the Syrian army is responding to strikes and calling the U.S. a partner of ISIS now. How terror groups will look to benefit from the U.S. military action.
[14:40:21] BALDWIN: The Syrian army has responded to the missile strikes on their air base near the city of Homs, and they condemn it, saying that the U.S. is now a partner of ISIS and other terror organizations.
Peter Bergen is with me now, CNN national security analyst, who wrote an op-ed earlier.
Peter, good to see you, by the way.
And you asked a question whether the strikes were a warning shot for Assad or part of a larger campaign against Assad. How will we know the answer?
PETER BERGEN, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: I hope that we will hear from secretary of state, by McMaster and Jim Mattis about what is the actual plan for Syria, because one set of strikes doesn't make a strategy. There's a universal feeling that it was the right thing to do the use of force. And Congress has to come forward with an Authorization for Use of Military Force once a president has produced military action like this now. That's been more honored in the breach. This was a strike on the Assad regime. The force that has been used in the last decade and a half has been directed at al Qaeda and its allies. You can't say that Assad is an ally of al Qaeda or ISIS in any meaningful way. So I think the time has really come for people in Congress, Republican president, Republican House, Republican Senate, a president who is doing these things for a vote to happen, and for a public discussion about what the best strategy is. It shouldn't just be the Trump administration's strategy. It should be the American people's strategy.
BALDWIN: What about Iran and Russia?
BERGEN: I think the Russians are clearly -- the Russians have very few allies in the world and Assad is one of them. They have Syrian territory, and it's not surprising that they are going to make all sorts of noises about this is indefensible. Now will they actually do anything, I think, that's a whole other matter. We've seen the agreement go away, which is unfortunate, and actually protects Russians as well as Americans. But I didn't see anything in the short term of some real Russian response, some real Iranian response, because, you know, do they really want to get into a real shooting war with the United States? No.
BALDWIN: But what about ISIS? Just quickly before I let you go, when I was talking to Fareed at the top of the show, is this, in a sense, helping the enemy, being ISIS? I mean, how might this embolden ISIS?
BERGEN: At the end of the day, ISIS came into being as an anti-Assad outfit. This is going to be hard for them to say this is against our interests. Is has its own problems right now. It's lost 50 percent of its territory in Iraq and very substantial amounts in Syria. I don't see this really having much difference for them. ISIS has its own problems. We've already conducted something like 8,000 strikes in Syria against mostly ISIS targets. So this is just one strike. We've already done a lot of damage to ISIS and Syria with other strikes.
BALDWIN: Peter Bergen, as always, thank you so much.
To read his piece, go to CNN.com for that.
Coming up, "President Assad has got to go," that's a quote and sentiment from a member of Congress that sits on the Senate Intelligence Committee and Senate Homeland Security Committee. Did last night's Tomahawk strikes go far enough? Let's talk to Senator James Lankford, next.
[14:48:20] BALDWIN: You're watching our continuing coverage of the strikes in Syria. U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley speaking on the floor of the United Nations with this warning.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
NIKKI HALEY, U.S. AMBASSADOR TO THE UNITED NATIONS: 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.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BALDWIN: A lot of reaction and praise coming from both sides across Capitol Hill.
Republican Senator James Lankford, of Oklahoma, has been calling on the Trump administration to act against Assad for a while.
Let me bring him in now. Senator James Lankford joining me from Washington.
SEN. JAMES LANKFORD, (R), OKLAHOMA: Thank you.
BALDWIN: So you support, sir, last night's military action. Let me ask you this, did it go far enough for you? LANKFORD: It's not far enough because Assad is still there. It is
important that the United States is actually engaging in the region and for the leaders in the region, for the last couple of years, the United States has been disengaged. If we're going to remove Assad, we have to show that they are there, paying attention, engaged and pushing him out.
BALDWIN: What do you make of the U.S. military investigating whether or not Russian was complicit. They are looking to see if this Russian warplane actually dropped a bomb on this hospital in Idlib to cover up that chemical attack. How concerning is that for you and what should be the next step?
[14:49:56] LANKFORD: There's no question that Assad is the proxy of Iran and of Russia. The only reason Assad is still there is because Iran and Russia are propping him up. Russia is specifically on the ground in the same area at the same base, where their chemical weapons are stored and launched from and delivered back to that spot. It's impossible for me to believe that Russia was not at least aware if not complicit in this. Russia needs to be able to confirm not just to us but to the world, Russia confirmed in the world's eyes that they helped Assad remove all of his chemical weapons and dispose of them and now we see they are still there and still at a base where Russia also resides.
BALDWIN: As Americans are trying to understand President Trump's motivations and how he views military action in Syria, he tweeted 24 times in 2013 saying don't attack. And you have changed your mind a bit as well. I just want to understand how. In 2013, you said to a meeting of your constituents, quoting you, "I remain opposed to U.S. military intervention in Syria's civil war. A limited missile strike will only weaken our hand in the Middle East when Assad claims a year from now that he beat the rebels and the Americans." And you go on to talk about how we should engage diplomatically.
In 2013, that 1400 men, women and children killed. Help me understand, Senator, what changed your mind.
LANKFORD: Sure. So I can't get into the mind of President Trump. He'll get a chance to articulate that. But I can assure you, that in that conversation and multiple others, it was the frustration with the Obama administration and what they brought out was a very limited focus, the Authorization for the Use of Military Force they presented and all these time limits and boundaries and limitations on it, that my question was, if we're going to engage, we need to engage with a purpose, to be able to both diplomatically remove Assad and --
BALDWIN: But the pictures were the same. I understand, Senator Lankford, but the pictures were the same. 1400 men, women and children poisoned, gassed. I think that's what some Americans are having a hard time understanding, if not then --
(CROSSTALK) LANKFORD: I would have no issue then if not now. If President Obama carried out a limited strike like this, I would have supported it. It's the same question I'm asking right now of President Trump. You did a limited strike. You stated that America is in the game now. Now it's the now what. It's his responsibility to be able to bring a request for an Authorization of Use of Military Force to the Congress so the American people can get engaged and determine exactly how this will be done and then the president to be able to carry that out. My position on this is the same in the sense that I want a diplomatic solution. Everyone wants a diplomatic solution. If we're going to engage, we can't just limit engage and then walk out. The same is true then as it was then. If Assad can say I beat the Americans, I lived through their bombardment and I'm still standing here, it weakens our position in the world and definitely in the region.
BALDWIN: Sure. Sure.
Senator Lankford, thank you for your time.
LANKFORD: Thank you.
BALDWIN: Thank you.
Straight ahead here on CNN, a global reaction to this massive missile strike in Syria widens. CNN is learning that the Pentagon is investigating possible involvement on behalf of Russia in this week's chemical attack killing dozens. Those new details, next.
You're watching CNN.
[14:57:32] BALDWIN: Breaking news out of Stockholm, Sweden, where a major manhunt is underway. Police are look for a man they say rammed into a crowd of shoppers and then into a department store there with this truck. It was a stolen beer truck, is what he used as a weapon. The attack happened today on the city's busiest shopping street. At least two people have been killed, many more injured. And people obviously ran for their lives. Witnesses described shoppers just weeping in a total state of shock. Swedish parliament was placed on lockdown. Subway service came to a halt. Authorities warned people to stay home and avoid the area.
Erin McLaughlin is in London watching the developments in Stockholm.
And I understand there's been an arrest?
ERIN MCLAUGHLIN, CNN GLOBAL AFFAIRS CORRSEPODNENT: That's right. This development happening within the last hour, Brooke. Stockholm police saying they have arrested an individual in the Stockholm area, though they have not given out much more information than that. Not saying whether or not the individual currently under arrest in connection with this grisly attack is the person of interest. They were referencing earlier in the day -- earlier in the day, they released a still image taken from surveillance footage of an escalator near where the attack happened. That still image showing a man wearing a hoodie getting off of the escalator.
We're also getting new information from the beer truck company in question. According to the company's spokesperson, a masked man approached the driver of the truck as he was off-loading beer at a local restaurant, hopped into the driver's seat, and simply drove away. And, of course, we know what happens next, according to eyewitnesses, plowing through that crowded pedestrian area, driving straight into a garden shop, killing at least two people and injuring scores more -- Brooke?
BALDWIN: Erin McLaughlin, thank you so much. Keep us apprised of what is happening in Sweden. Awful for those people there. Thank you.
As we continue on, you're watching CNN's special coverage here of these Tomahawk strikes in Syria. I'm Brooke Baldwin.
Here's a quote, "We are prepared to do more." Those words spoken just moments ago from the U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley, signaling to the world that the United States could act again after President Trump launched the nation's first direct military action against Syria.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
HALEY: Assad did this --