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GOP Set to Change Rules to Confirm Neil Gorsuch; Escalating Tensions Between U.S. & North Korea; 7-Year-Old Syrian Refugee Speaks Out on Chemical Attack. Aired 6:30-7a ET

Aired April 5, 2017 - 06:30   ET


ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: And the Senate is trying to confirm Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch.

[06:30:05] CNN's Sunlen Serfaty is in middle of it all on Capitol Hill.

What is the latest, Sunlen?


Well, the White House certainly continues their full scale blitz up here on Capitol Hill. Mike Pence up here later today for the third straight day trying to revive this bill. He met last night with a conservative House Freedom Caucus, and after that meeting, the Chairman Mark Meadows emerging saying, yes, steps are going in the right direction, but notably, there's no legislative text yet. No one has signed on to any agreement. And, certainly, the big divide between House conservative members and House moderate Republicans still exists, and that's what originally brought down this bill in the first place.

Now, over here to the battle going on in the Senate, Republicans took their first procedural step, which essentially sets the wheels in motion pushing towards using the nuclear option on Thursday to get Donald Trump's Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch through. Now, in this time, Democrats are really using this time to rail against Gorsuch.

I want to show you live pictures of Senator Jeff Merkley who is on the Senate floor. This is his 11th hour of the talk-a-thon. This notably does nothing to change anything. They can't delay or prevent the inevitable from happening here, but they are using this time to air their grievances.

Once the nuclear option is invoked, Chris, on Thursday, that's up to a final vote on Friday.

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: All right. Sunlen, thank you very much.

So, North Korea launches a missile. That's an obvious play for attention. We often report on what they do, but we rarely understand why they do it.

So, when we come back, we're going to take a look at what Kim Jong-un wants exactly.


[06:35:45] CUOMO: All right. Breaking news out of North Korea. That country has fired a ballistic missile once again into the Sea of Japan once again.

Now, the timing is relevant here. It comes a day before President Trump is set to meet with China's president. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson issued this non-statement, saying in part, "The United States has spoken enough about North Korea. We have no further comment." Fueling the speculation do we have policy? Do we know what to do when it comes to North Korea?

Now, equally important is, do we know what North Korea wants? Do we know what their motives are? Are these missiles the end game, or part of something larger?

Let's discuss, CNN international correspondent Will Ripley has done extensive reporting inside North Korea. Always good to see you.

And Georgetown University professor Victor Cha. He served as director for Asian affairs during the Bush administration.

Will, the word from sources in North Korea, do they see this as yet another flexing of North Korean might or is there a suggestion that something more nefarious is afoot?

WILL RIPLEY, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, look, North Korea is all in when it comes to their missile program and their nuclear program, Chris, and every time I go into the country, I hear the same thing. They believe that they have the right to be recognized as a nuclear state and that is what they're going to do at any cost. That means that despite international sanctions, the last program to be cut would be the missile program and the nuclear program.

And there are two big events coming up in North Korea next week, so this missile launch could just be the opening act. The big legislative gathering on Tuesday. The supreme peoples assembly where the votes are always unanimously in favor of whatever Kim Jong-un presents.

And then on Saturday, it's their biggest holiday of the year, the Day of the Sun, and it's around these major events that we often see major provocative acts from North Korea like a nuclear test or even a potential ICBM launch.

CUOMO: Good context. Thank you for that.

Mr. Cha, so the question becomes, what do they want? The timing somewhat obviously. President Trump speaks strongly about going it alone in North Korea, and China better step up. Going to have a big meeting tomorrow. Boom, comes the missile launch. What does this tell you about how intense the North Korean side of

this equation is?

VICTOR CHA, PROFESSOR, GEORGETOWN UNIVERSITY: Well, two things, Chris. First, I think this is another attempt to perfect a missile capability that is targeted on U.S. bases in Korea and Japan based on the reports of whatsoever missile it was. The second thing is that this is, frankly, North Korea's way of giving the finger to the United States and China before their big meeting this week, and to try to say to them they don't really care what the United States or China is going to do.

As Will said, they are really set on developing a modern nuclear weapons force, a modern ballistic missile force, and it doesn't matter what the United States and China say.

CUOMO: Yes. Mr. Cha, do you believe the theory that this is somewhat of a proxy thing? Yes, they want the capabilities, but they want the capabilities in North Korea so they can get something to not use those capabilities. Do you buy into that, that this is a leverage measure, and if so, what would they want?

CHA: So, I think there are a lot of people in the policy community that for many years believed that this was basically an effort to try to get into a negotiation with the United States to be recognized by the United States, things of that nature. But I think things fundamentally changed when Kim Jong-un, the current leader, took over five years ago. And it doesn't seem like the North Koreans are really that interested in if talking to anybody.

There's a popular perception that the Chinese are pissed off at the North Koreans, and they are because of all the North Korean behavior. But the absence of high level meeting between China and North Korea is because the North Koreans don't want the meetings. The Chinese are trying to get at them and trying to influence their behavior, but the North Koreans are the ones who are not interested in talking to the United States, China, the South Koreans, Russians, or anybody else.

CUOMO: Will, you're nodding. I have heard you report similar types of observations while in North Korea. How pronounced is it when you are there about how those officials talk about wanting or needing a relationship with the United States?

RIPLEY: Well, they say that they really don't care about the United States.

[06:40:03] What they care about is self-preservation as a society, and, of course, the most important thing in North Korean society is the North Korean leader. They consider him the head of the society. You can cut off an arm or a leg, aka, the people who live there, but you cannot cut off the head.

So, they will do anything to protect the regimes that's in place and the power structure that's in place, which gives Kim Jong-un absolute power. And they think if they have in position a viable nuclear weapon, and an ICBM that could deliver to the mainland U.S., that they are not going to face the danger of invasion like other countries, like Iraq, for example.

CUOMO: Seems pretty plain, though, doesn't, it that they don't face the threat of invasion? Not in any real way. I mean, just look at the talk that's coming out of the White House right now, whether it's the "Financial Times" interview where the president suggests that the U.S. could go it alone, whatever that means, and then you see the secretary of state, a nothingburger in response to this missile, saying we have talked about them enough.

Is there really basis for a perceived threat?

CHA: Well, I don't think so. When we were in negotiations with the North Koreans and they would say this, we would respond to them, why would we want to invade you? You have nothing -- you have nothing that the world wants.

So, I think, you know, what this does is it does provide ammunition for the Trump administration going into this summit to really put pressure on China to cut off financially their ties with North Korea. There's a lot more pressure that could be brought to bear on the regime to get them to understand if they really want to pursue this path, they're going to feel pain for pursuing that path.

So, I think Tillerson teed up a number of things in his last trip to China, and this visit to Mar-a-Lago will be a great chance to see if the Chinese will deliver.

CUOMO: Victor Cha, Will Ripley, thank you very much.


CAMEROTA: Well, she is the face of the children of Syria. We speak with 7-year-old Bana Alabed. Her message to the world, next.


[06:46:02] CAMEROTA: OK. So, there's another round of severe storms to tell you about. It's targeting the southeastern U.S. There's torrential rain, hail, even the threat of tornadoes.

CNN meteorologist Jennifer Gray has our forecast.

What are you seeing, Jennifer?

JENNIFER GRAY, AMS METEOROLOGIST: That's right, Alisyn. This could be one of the most active weather days around the Atlanta area that we've seen in several years.

We'll get to the forecast. First, it's presented by Xyzal. For continuous 24-hour relief. Be wiser (ph), take new Xyzal.

So, we are going to see the development of thunderstorms, especially across the Southeast today. You can see them already firing up. All of the lightning strikes. Of course, the driving force well to the West. We do have thunderstorm watches in effect. This is going to come in

several waves. So, if you see storms roll through, you have a quiet period, doesn't mean it's over. This is going to be off and on throughout the entire day. We already have thunderstorm warnings in effect through eastern portions of Birmingham.

This is an area to watch, and, Chris, on a scale of one to five, that red area is about a four. So, we could see dangerous tornadoes today.

CUOMO: All right. Thank you for keeping track of it. We'll see you a little bit later in the show.

So, in the world of sports, big story. Quarterback Tony Romo, Cowboys legend, trading in cleats for microphone.

Hines Ward joins us now with the "Bleacher Report".

A lot of people thought he would be playing with the Texans. Now he is replacing Phil Simms.

HINES WARD, CNN SPORTS CORRESPONDENT: You're right, Chris. I thought he was going to be playing for the Texans.

But let me tell you, it's not easy making the jump from the field to the broadcast booth. I'm sure Tony Romo, he will be a natural. Now, he had offers to play this season, but he said becoming the lead analyst for CBS was too good to pass up.


TONY ROMO, NEW NFL LEAD ANALYST FOR CBS: There's no part of me that wants to play. You know, right now, I'm completely 100 percent committed to CBS. And I understand that know you're always giving yourself a little wiggle room stuff, but I just don't really envision that being a scenario. I'm choosing CBS over playing football, and that's what I'm doing right now.


WARD: Like you said, Chris, Tony will replace Phil Simms as CBS's number one color commentator. Yesterday posted this pic wearing his CBS jacket saying, "I guess it's my time to start dressing up."

And, finally, Cardinals Steven Piscotty had a night to forget against the Cubs last night. In the fifth inning at the plate, he was hit in the right elbow, and he goes to first. Then just minutes later he tries to steal second, and the throw hits him in the left elbow. If you are keeping score, that's twice he has been hit this inning.

Then it gets worse. Scary moment for Piscotty trying to score from third. He gets hit in the helmet, and that is the third time in one inning. He had to leave the game. So, hopefully, he is better.

Team says he will have more tests done today, but a rough night for him. The Cardinals lose to the Cubbies 2-1.

CUOMO: The guy got hit three times in one inning.

CAMEROTA: I can relate. This is what happens whenever I try to play sports, which is why I don't do it. I totally relate to him.

CUOMO: We should need Hines Ward out there. He's only guy that can take hits like that and keep playing.


Hines, thank you very much.

All right. We have to bring you this story. Perhaps you know her name or her face. Seven-year-old Bana Alabed, she is the face of the children of Syria. She is going to join us to talk about the horrible chemical attack we've seen there this week and her message to the world.


[06:52:59] CAMEROTA: World leaders are addressing the chemical attack in Syria. Activists say at least 70 people were killed, including ten children. Hundreds are injured. President Trump called the attack reprehensible. The Syrian military denies all responsibility.

One refugee, 7-year-old Bana Alabed, has become the face of the Syrian children.


BANA ALABED, 7-YEAR-OLD SYRIAN REFUGEE: This is my message. It is never too late. Save the people of Syria.


CAMEROTA: Moments ago, I spoke with Bana and her mother Fatemah Alabed.


CAMEROTA: Bana, do you blame President Assad for this?


CAMEROTA: What is your message to President Assad?

BANA ALABED: I am very sad, a lot died, and no one helped them. The world is watching. The world doesn't do anything.

CAMEROTA: What do you want the world to do?

BANA ALABED: I want to stop the war, and I want the children of Syria play and go to school, live in peace. We can help them. We can save them.

CAMEROTA: Bana, when you saw the video and the pictures of what happened in Syria this week, what did you think? BANA ALABED: I am very sad about this. 100 children were killed in

Syria. They were not terrorists. They were just people.

Let me ask you, this didn't start today, but it has been going on for six years.

[06:55:07] Why can't you stop the war?

CAMEROTA: I don't know, Bana. I don't know why the world can't stop the war in Syria. Bana, do you want to be able to go home to Syria someday?

BANA ALABED: Yes, I love my home, and I love Syria.

CAMEROTA: Fatima, you said, you tweeted out, "To everyone in the world, go to the streets and demand justice for the people killed today in Syria. Come on. Share this as much as you can."

Fatemah, what do you want the world to do?

FATEMAH ALABED, MOTHER OF 7-YEAR-OLD SYRIAN REFUGEE: It is not fair all that's people dying for what? Just they are people. Just they want to stay in their rooms. Just they want -- for me I stay at my home until the last breath. My home destroyed. Yet, I stay there, until they make me get out. Refused me for this.

It is not fair for all these people. They want to kill everyone. They want to kill everyone who has breath in his chest. The war is not good for all the people, not just for children, because all the people, they have the right to stay.


FATEMAH ALABED: And wherever they want in their babies born? They want to be refugee. So, let us help them to stay. Let us help them to stop this war, and make them live in peace again. You know that Trump is banning Syrian to go out, so we must do something for -- to let people stay in their homes.

CAMEROTA: Fatemah, who do you blame?

FATEMAH ALABED: All the leaders in this world because they saw -- they saw this happen, and they didn't speak any word or they don't make any difference. They just leave Bashar al Assad, and Russian people do whatever they want. They now start using chemical weapons like in Aleppo. But now, it's more dangerous than in Aleppo.

When they start using chlorine bombs, I smell it. And I can't breathe. Even my children, they have suffered from this. And it is nasty smell. And you can't breathe and it's so dangerous.

What do you think if it's nearby home? And we saw the (INAUDIBLE) bombs near my home. Shame on the world. I think it is not -- it is not fair that they are seeing us dying every day and do nothing.

CAMEROTA: So, Fatemah, what is your message to President Trump? FATEMAH ALABED: The time is not gone. So, he can -- he can do

something for us. He can say, this is not right. You must -- if he can't stop the war, he can say that it's not fair to using the chemical weapons on his people. At least he can do it.

But I would want him to stop the war also. Not just banning us from his country. We have right to stay in our country also.

CAMEROTA: Bana, what is your message to the world?

BANA ALABED: Children, they should pray (ph). Stop the war. Stop the war.

CAMEROTA: That is the message. Stop the war. We pray for you. We pray for both of you. We pray for all the innocent people of Syria, and, Bana, we hope you get your wish to be able to go home to Syria and play as you wish. Thank you both so much for being a window into the suffering there for us. We're glad that you are safe.


CAMEROTA: I mean, from the mouth of babe, she wants to go home, she wants to go to school, she wants to play. That's what she wants, and she wants the world's attention and help.

CUOMO: And representative of a generation of kids that able who have been chased out of the country, and spread all over Europe here in Turkey. So, at least they're close. Many are many countries away.

CAMEROTA: I mean, as she just said, we are not terrorists. We are children.

CUOMO: All right. That story is going to continue on the heels of this latest attack on citizens in Syria.