Return to Transcripts main page


Bill O'Railly's Sexual Harassment Claims; Crisis in Syria; Assad Regime Suspected in the Deadly Gas Attack in Syria; Interview with Sen. Mike Lee. Aired 7:30-8a ET

Aired April 5, 2017 - 07:30   ET


[07:30:02] TIM KAINE, (D), ARMED SERVICES COMMITTEE: They are marching down this path, interviewing witnesses. And I'm confident that the combination of the senate investigation as well as the ongoing FBI investigation which was finally revealed. The combination of those two investigations, we'll get to the bottom of it.

ALYSIN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: OK, Senator Tim Kaine, thank you for being on New Day this morning.

KAINE: Absolutely.


CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: All right. So there is growing fallout for "Fox News" and specifically their big anchor Bill O'Reilly. More than 20 companies have now pulled their ads in the wake of sexual harassment allegations. Is the man on your screen in real jeopardy here?


CUOMO: "Fox News" facing a major advertising revolt. More than 20 companies pulling out from Bill O'Reilly's prime time show after allegations of sexually harassment. What will this mean to that career? CNN Senior Media Correspondent and Host of Reliable Sources Brian Stelter, joins with more money talks.

We've seen that in other controversies in the media before. We're nothing is really happening but if the have goes something it forces a hand. But it's Fox different?

[07:35:07] BRIAN STELTER, CNN SENIOR MEDIA CORRESPONDENT: Then this is absolutely all about money. It's about O'Reilly's settlement. It's about how much Fox paid to settle some of these cases. It's about the advertisement revenue. The O'Reilly factor makes which seems to make Bill O"Reilly invincible.

You know, this is the man who has the highest ratings of anybody all across cable news. He has a rating throughout for Fox. He has been for 20 years. And that's why he is a profit engine for the network.

But the one x-factor here is the advertisers. We started the day yesterday with two advertisers telling CNN they are withdrawn from the show, by the end of the day more than 20 and these are only ones saying it publically. There's more advertises sort of privately called up Fox and said, "Hey, get us away from the O'Reilly factor."

Now, this is a short term issue but the advertisers are just trying to do the right thing publicly? Will they come back to the show? That remains to be seen. But this is definitely as the "Washington Post" put it this morning, "The biggest, most severe blow to O'Reilly in his 20 years with Fox."

CAMEROTA: So advertisers are uncomfortable with his show or viewers. Is there any sense that his ratings have taken any hit with all of these allegations?

STELTER: Not at all. O'Reilly is unique because people come in specifically for his show. You know, he produces like an ocean. People are watching all day long. But, the water rises when O'Reilly is on. People come in for him. So, his fans, if they do care about the allegations they don't care enough to stop watching.

VAUSE: So, what are you hearing in terms of where the network is in terms of feeling the pressure? You know, because they're caught in a box here, right. If you don't do anything, it seems like you're endorsing the behavior. They have lead to this suggestion and his lawsuits. But, if you do something, you know, you cave into the pressure and caving to the media and Fox is kind of juxtaposed itself to everyone else in the media. So, what does it do?

STELTER: That's right. I think he have to leave the door at least slightly open to the possibility that O'Reilly may not last the Fox. Now, I'm worried even saying that because he does seem to be invincible. He has so much power because of its audience --

VAUSE: And these are allegations. It's not where he actually said something and you know he said it like done I must, you know, when he said that horrible thing about Rutgers Women's Basketball Team. He actually he said it. You knew he said it. The advertisers turned on him before its own company did he was out.

STELTER: So, there have been advertiser boycotts in the past that have hurt people like Rush Limbaugh. But Rush Limbaugh is still on the radio. Glenn Beck was the target of ad boycott. He eventually lost the show at Fox. So there's a different scenario.

CAMEROTA: He also -- this is I think the Glenn Beck one is instructive. He was a huge star at Fox. He got great ratings. And then, when advertisers wouldn't go on his show, he was gone soon and there afterwards.


CAMEROTA: Is there an analogy that can be drawn?

STELTER: I think there is. I mean it's a giant open question and what the Murdock's who own Fox? What are they really thinking about O'Reilly? They apparently renewed his contract and knowing about this harassment allegations. He knew the deal anyway.

VAUSE: Although, I'd like to see what's in that contract about the substance of this lawsuit. You know, everybody in their contract has moral clauses and all these different things.

STELTER: And just because they were knew it doesn't mean they actually -- to put him on the air. So, what will the Murdock's do? Will they withstand what is essentially, this corporate pressure coming from these advertisers and keep O'Reilly on the air?

I say and to keep the door open to the possibility of him leaving because, you know, Roger Ailes was seemed to be invincible this time last -- irremissible this time last year. He was the head of Fox. He ruled the network with an iron fist. Then Gretchen Carlson sued, other woman came forward and he resigned two weeks later. So anything is possible in this environment when eventually money talks.

CAMEROTA: Brian Stelter, thank you for the update.

VAUSE: So, the president's allegation of spying by the Obama administration has not really had any proof on it. And now you've a senator speaking out about it. What republican Senator Mike Lee is saying to fuel the theory that Trump may have been a victim. He makes the case next.


[07:42:18] CUOMO: All right. The Syrian situation is a horror on many levels. We just saw civilians, children killed. The allegation is it was done by the Assad regime and they may have used a nerve toxin. That is the latest reflection of just an intractable situation when it comes to Syria. It is also a very big test for President Trump. How will he respond?

Joining us now is Republican Senator Mike Lee from Utah. He's a member of the judiciary committee. Senator, it's good to have you. Let's start with the proposition of what you're comfortable with in terms of action in Syria. There has been reluctance from both parties to put boots on the ground there to spend American blood and treasure. Does this attack make you change your opinion?

SEN. MIKE LEE (R), UTAH: So, first of all, this is a tragic thing that has happened. Our thoughts and prayers go out to the victims. People are suffering on the ground in Syria and other places in that part of the world. We don't have any idea at this point what the Trump administration wants to do about this. The one thing I do know and the one thing I think you'll find a great deal of consensus around is that if the Trump administration does want to do anything by way of intervening military, he needs to come to Congress with a plan and present that to Congress.

CUOMO: You know, I'll tell you what, that is a unique position, because many in your party, but certainly in your office have abdicated that power of declaring war to the president. We have an AUMF right now that's from 2001. So that would be a legitimate debate if your brothers and sisters in Congress want to take hold of the constitutional responsibility.

But in terms of your comfort level with what we've seen out of the White House, they say one week, Nikki Haley, Rex Tillerson, hey, Assad, they'll figure it out in Syria. And right after that, one of the boldest dispatch we've seen from Assad regime in years. Do you see a connection between those two? Something you've chosen to ignore, you've now empowered.

LEE: I do think it's a mistake that Congress has chosen to ignore for decades or well over a decade, some would say for many decades, the declaration of war power. The fact that -- although the president of the United States is the commander-in-chief of our armed forces, when it's time to actually send American personnel into harm's way, to put boots on the ground somewhere else on foreign sovereign soil, we need to be authorizing that.

We need to pass a declaration of war or at least an explicit authorization for the use of military force. That's why a few years ago when there was talk of deploying U.S. personnel to Syria, right, I was among the first to step up and say we need to do this expressly if we're going to do it. I know that one of my colleagues on the other side of the aisle who agrees with me on this sort of thing is Tim Kaine, who I believe you had on here just few minutes ago.

[07:45:05] CUOMO: Yes, he was just on and that was part of the untold story very often of the red line with Obama. Yes. There is reticence to acknowledge the crossing of the red line that seems pretty obvious, but then once the president was in, he seemed to be all in and Congress wasn't there in terms of wanting to get that motivation to be on the ground. It's complicated.

And it remains complicated. But does it concern you? Just to circle back to this. That one week, the White House puts out a statement that Assad is serious problem. Basically saying we're not going after Assad anymore. That is not our goal. And shortly there after, we see one of his worst attacks in years.

LEE: We certainly don't want to be doing anything that might encourage or embolden him to do this. I don't necessarily think you can draw a connection between them to say that any one in Washington caused Assad to do this. We do need to monitor this very carefully and watch what he does.

CUOMO: All right. Now, I want to ask you, did you mean to add fuel to the fire of speculation about Susan Rice when you said that political espionage is too common and too tempting? Did you mean to suggest that Susan Rice may have done her unmasking for political reasons?

LEE: Yes, but I have no idea what she did. Those facts are being investigated. I've made this clear in every interview I have done on this point.

CUOMO: But Breitbart is using you as a poster boy. And you know that that is the President's, you know, viewing of choice. He loves to see what they put out. They are using you as the poster boy of people who believe that Susan Rice was politically motivated in unmasking. Do they have it right?

LEE: I'll tell you what I told them which is that I don't know what happened in this particular instance. I don't know what Susan Rice did or didn't do. I now that's under investigation. And I'm going to watch that very closely because I really do want to know that.

What I have said to Breitbart and what I've said to every other media outlet that asked about it, is that I've been expressing concerns about section 702 of FISA over the last six years. In many cases, it's fallen on deaf ears. But the fact remains that we've got this technology, they can do a whole lot of things. And this is a big brother type of problem that we have to watch out for.

If we're not careful -- if we don't carefully constrain the limits of the power of those who have access --

CUOMO: Understood.

LEE: -- on this technology, this is going to really take us into a very strange direction. I've been warning about it for six years. I talked about it in the entire section of my book "The lost constitution." That in every presidential administration from FDR through Nixon, the administration in power used our intelligence gathering agencies to engage in political espionage. Human nature hasn't changed, technology has changed and had made a lot of it simpler and we've got to be on the lookout for it.

CUOMO: Right, but you have no reason to believe that any of those concerns are at play with Susan Rice and in fact, you have every reason to believe they were not at play with Susan Rice because as far as you or I know, we've never heard of anybody wanting to leak and doing so by leaving a paper trail of making a request for the information that she got.

She unmasked, that's a big procedure, there's no indication she did not follow it. That means she would have created her own paper trail to do political espionage to use the phrase of the political right here on the story. There's no basis for it. So why conflate the two issues of potential of surveillance with the specific instance of incidental surveillance where those risks do not seem to be at play?

LEE: I've done no such thing for the third time on your program this morning. And to reiterate something that I've said to reporters every single time I've been asked about this, I don't know what happened with Susan Rice.

CUOMO: Right, but you say it's unreasonable -- you did say it is not unreasonable to suggest that it could have happened. Now, that doesn't fly in a court of law. But it does fly in the court of a public opinion. And it does seem as though you're saying Rice has to prove it wasn't politically motivated for me to believe that it wasn't and that's not fair.

LEE: That is an absolutely absurd manipulation of what I said. That is not at all what I said. I did in fact say that something like this could have happened. I did in fact say it's not absurd to suggest something like this could've happen and every time I've said anything like that it's been accompanied by I don't know what Susan Rice did, I don't know the facts of this case. I'm sure it will be investigated. CUOMO: Senator Mike Lee. You are on the same page as everybody else with this. We want some facts to back up the allegations. Thank you very much. I appreciate you being on the show.

LEE: Thank you.

CUOMO: Alisyn.

[07:49:47] CAMEROTA: Chris, there's global outrage of the apparent chemical attack in Syria that has killed dozens of people, including children. What can be done? CNN's Arwa Damon has seen the carnage there first hand. She has some ideas. She joins us next.


CAMEROTA: Global leaders condemning the Assad regime for the deadly chemical attack that has killed dozens of people including children. President Trump put out a statement. He is blaming his predecessor. He says, "A consequence of the past administration's weakness and irresolution. Joining us now CNN Senior International Correspondent Awra Damon, who has seen the carnage in Syria first-hand.

Arwa, it's great to have you here in the studio with us. It's just feels so intractable I mean to figure out what's happening in Syria, but then something like this happens and it feels is though there's a global ground swell with the U.K. and France and Israel and everybody condemning it and then why can't anything be done?

ARWA DAMON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: I think if we had the answer to that question we would be in a very different position. Right now, I find it inexcusable that solutions haven't been put forward. It is unconscionable that the various different key players in Syria not includes the Iranians, the Russians and the Americans have not somehow been able to put aside their own personal national political gains and desires and are continuing to use the Syrian population as cannon fodder in this sickening game of geopolitical chess. The thing is we have to keep talking about it because we cannot allow a sense of futility to silence us because then where are we?

[07:55:08] CUOMO: Well, you've reported on this very well on location and elsewhere about the complexity of what that power vacuum has created. You now have what started off looking like a civil war against the Assad regime which has been turned into a sectarian battle effectively by Russia with some help from Iran, maybe even coincidentally and the Assad regime.

So now you have a sectarian battle which you could say helped birth ISIS's main motivation, right, that pincer between Iraq and what was going on in ISIS in the middle. So now you have that on top of what was a civil war, on top of what seems to be a despotic regime.

DAMON: You do and that's the problem, that it's not one dimensional you have all of these different dimensions too. What's also important to add to all of that though is the recognition now and you have things like the clear violation of international law with the use of chemical weapons and nothing happens, that is like candy for extremist organizations like ISIS who can then turn around to what's left of this moderate opposition and say, look, you guys want freedom and democracy, will these countries like America that claim to promote democracy, they are not coming to help you.

They're watching you get foddered and in fact the 2013 chemical attack that took place in Ghouta that crossed them President Obama's red line and resulted in nothing was a huge galvanizing point for these extremists entities. The thing is the complex of the situation is not excuse enough for world leaders to want to shy away from a solution.

CAMEROTA: There is all of this complexity as Chris just laid out and I think that we do sort of, you know, a kind of exhausts your mind to think about all of those shifting sands. And then there is sort of hits obsessity of Bana this 7-year-old girl, the Syrian girl who has a Twitter feed who is the window of the world into what's happening in Syria. We just talked to her this morning. Listen to how simply she puts it.


BANA ALABED, 7-YEARS-OLD SYRIAN REFUGEE: The world is watching. The world doesn't do anything.

CAMEROTA: What do you want the world to do?

ALABED: I want stop the war and I want the children of Syria play and go to school.


CAMEROTA: She wants the children of Syria to be able to play and go to school. And look I understand the naivety of a 7-year-old, but if we always have a half -- hard regime changes, it doesn't always go as planned at some point don't you say something has to be better than Assad.

DAMON: I'm not saying, you know, I met Bana and her mother in Turkey and to hear her talk as you're saying like these simple little terms, it does make you wonder why it is that there is no moral compass that we seem to have lost that could somehow be put back together again at the very least stop the bombs.

Yes, political change is different. Yes, regime change is difficult, we all understand that, but let's stop the mass killings. There are cards that can be played. There are ways to at least prevent the death that we see day in and day out of the Syrian --

CUOMO: Well, except the players complicate the picture, right? Iran, the U.S. has had very limited success in dealing with them and the other -- the talk about the Nuclear agreement could last for days. Russia, we see this odd cozying up to Russia by our current administration.

And they just put out a statement, they claim (ph) on saying yes, we're aware of the attack, yes we will continue to bomb and support of the Assad regime. You've shown no real leverage with them. And then you have Assad himself which the White House just said he's not our concern. Syria will deal with him.

So the players themselves make this very difficult. Did you see we have no leverage with any of them, the United States.

DAMON: And that's the problem because the U.S. does have leverage. I mean what kind of a world do we live in right now where America which is one of the greatest countries out there, the most powerful have absolutely zero leverage with Russia.

The question is whether or not the U.S. has been in the past which many would argue and has not been willing to use what leverage it may have with Russia, willing to back channel to Iran. Everything is about trading different bits and pieces for something. The problem with Syria is that no one seems to be willing to make the necessary trade needed to actually save the Syrian people.

CAMEROTA: Arwa Damon, we always rely on your reporting. Thank you so much for being here.

We're following a lot of news this morning, so let's get right to it.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is CNN Breaking News.

CUOMO: Good morning. Welcome to your New Day. We begin this hour with breaking news. President Trump facing several international crisis. You got North Korea just firing another ballistic missile, the timing not a coincidence. One day before Trump is set to meet with China's president. You have the White House reaction in confusing a dire warning on the one hand "The clock has run out".

All options are on the table, but then an odd 23-word statement from the secretary of state which essentially said nothing.

CAMEROTA: The Trump White House also facing tough questions about the future of Syrian president Bashar Al-Assad. The evidence points to his regime carrying out the worst chemical attack in years killing dozens of people including children.

It's a very busy day 76 of the Trump Presidency. Let's begin our coverage with CNN Senior International --