Return to Transcripts main page
North Korea Launches Another Missile Test; World Reacts to Syrian Government's Chemical Bombing on Civilians; Interview with Congressman Adam Schiff; Interview with Republican Congressman Adam Kinzinger of Illinois. Aired 8-8:30a ET
Aired April 5, 2017 - 08:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[08:00:00] ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: The evidence points to his regime carrying out the worst chemical attack in years, killing dozens of people including children. It is a busy day, 76th of the Trump presidency. Let's begin our coverage with CNN senior international correspondent Ivan Watson. He is live in Seoul on that missile launch. What is the latest, Ivan?
IVAN WATSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Alisyn. The North Koreans launched this missile shortly after dawn here on the Korean peninsula. It was described as a medium range ballistic missile. The specific form is a KN-15, and it was fired from near a submarine base called Sinpo. It flew for only about nine minutes in the air. A very strange trajectory, very high, about 117 miles in the air, but a distance of only 87 miles into east sea or the Sea of Japan.
Now, this is believed to have been using solid fuel, which means unlike liquid fuel rockets, it takes much less time to prepare them, to fuel them, and to launch them, which means it's much harder to intercept these rockets, these missiles, after they go into the air.
This similar type of missile was launched in February during the meeting between President Trump and the Japanese prime minister. China has come out with a statement saying it wants restraint and insisting that there is no link between this missile launch today, banned by United Nations Security Council resolutions, and the first meeting to take place between President Trump and the Chinese leader Xi Jinping in Florida tomorrow. Alisyn?
CAMEROTA: It will be fascinating to see what happens at that meeting. Ivan, thank you very much for the reporting.
President Trump now weighing his next move after North Korea's ballistic missile launch as well as that horrific chemical attack in Syria. CNN's Joe Johns is live at the White House with all of the international crises facing the White House. What's the latest, Joe?
JOE JOHNS, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: Alisyn, the focus really this morning on the crisis messaging coming out of the White House. Ivanka Trump, by the way, tweeting just a little while ago "Heartbroken and outraged by the images coming out of Syria following the atrocious chemical attack yesterday." But over the last 24 hours, you can say there have been some curious responses from the White House. And I want to tell you also that coming up in this report there are some very disturbing images if you haven't already seen them.
JOHNS: North Korea raising the stakes ahead of President Trump's summit with the Chinese president. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson responding to the provocation with a foreboding 23 word statement. "North Korea launched yet another intermediate range ballistic missile. The United States has spoken enough about North Korea. We have no further comment." This after President Trump threatened to go it alone if China doesn't help confront the North Korean threat. On the campaign trail Trump insisted North Korea was China's problem.
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: What I would do very simply is say, China, this is your baby. This is your problem. You solve the problem.
JOHNS: Meantime, a senior White House official issuing a dire warning that the clock has now run out. All options are on the table.
This as the world reacts in horror to one of the worst chemical attacks in Syria in years. Experts say it is likely another Sarin gas attack that killed dozens of civilians including children and injured hundreds. As world leaders quickly condemn the attack, it took the White House nine hours to issue a statement. The president and his top diplomat declining to comment on Syria during multiple public appearances on Tuesday, the White House statement calling the attack reprehensible and laying responsibility squarely at the feet of Syrian president Bashar al-Assad, but also blaming President Obama, deeming the attack a consequence of his weakness and irresolution.
SEAN SPICER, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: President Obama said in 2012 that he would establish a, quote-unquote, "red line" against the use of chemical weapons and then did nothing.
JOHNS: This criticism contradicting President Trump's tweets after the last chemical attack in 2013, in which he urged then President Obama not to retaliate with military action. Just last week, two of Trump's top administration officials signaling a sharp change in U.S. policy towards Syria.
REX TILLERSON, SECRETARY OF STATE: The longer term status of President Assad will be decided by the Syrian people.
JOHNS: U.S. ambassador to the U.N. Nikki Haley telling reporters our priority is no longer to sit there and focus on getting Assad out. These remarks drawing sharp review from fellow Republicans.
SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: The bottom line is that is a huge mistake.
[08:05:00] SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: This is another disgraceful chapter in American history, and it was predictable. (END VIDEOTAPE)
JOHNS: The president and the White House continuing to have a big week of high level interaction with foreign leaders. Today the king of Jordan visits the White House. Chris and Alisyn?
CUOMO: All right, Joe, thank you very much.
Joining us now Democratic Congressman Adam Schiff form California, the ranking member of the House Intelligence Committee. Congressman, thank you for being on the show.
REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D), CALIFORNIA: Good morning.
CUOMO: We've put some harsh images in this because that's the reality, and that is what world leaders, including the United States, are choosing to largely ignore that's going on in Syria. Do you believe that this attack is a signal that it is time for the U.S. to be more involved?
SCHIFF: I think it's been time for the U.S. to take a stronger stand for quite some time. I was urging during the Obama administration that we establish safe zones and that we also look at exploring the need to ground Assad's aircraft if he kept on bombing his own people with chemical weapons. There was a negotiated agreement for Syria to disarm those chemical weapons that was brokered by Russia. I think it is still time for this administration to tell Russia they need to get their client to stop dropping chemical bombs on people. And if Russia is unwilling to do it then we're going to have to find a way to ground that air force either ourselves or working with the Syrian people to ground that air force. But I don't think the world can sit idly by while this brutal dictator gases his own people.
CUOMO: The Kremlin just put out a statement that even though what just happened happened, they will continue to bomb in support of the Assad regime. And that is a good pivot to get us into the U.S. relationship with Russia and your investigation, which hopefully will be a window into some of the truth there. Joaquin Castro, came out, Democrat, and said from what he's seen on your committee, he thinks people are going to go to jail. Do you agree with that?
SCHIFF: You know, I'm not speculating about where we end up at the conclusion of our investigation. I think we're still in the very early stages. I think our obligation is to follow the evidence wherever it leads and let the consequences fall as they will depending on what we find.
But we are still in the process of gathering documents. We are also agreeing to an initial round of witnesses that will come before our committee. This is I think all we ought to say at this point in terms of any expected outcome.
We did have a couple notable developments this week that have been discussed publicly. The first is the accusation against Susan Rice by the Breitbart crowd and by people here within this building I think that are tossing around slandersou accusations without evidence. That serves me a lot. I spent two years on the Benghazi committee while they went after Susan Rice for no good reason, and that seems to be resuming.
The second development, of course, was the public report that yet another Trump person, this case Erik Prince, may have had yet another surreptitious meeting with the Russians. That obviously would be of deep concern to us if that took place, particularly if the timeline is correct and that meeting took place in the Seychelles in January. That would closely follow the secret conversation that Mike Flynn allegedly had with the Russian ambassador. So those are things that need to be looked into.
CUOMO: I want to ask you about that. But to the point that Castro made, have you seen anything that you believe could even indicate a possibility of an indictment, let alone a conviction?
SCHIFF: You know, again, I don't want to talk about anything that we've obtained in closed session. You know, the most I can say is obviously there are allegations now that Mike Flynn did not report the relationship he had with foreign powers, both Russia and Turkey. We are seeking his security clearance forms to determine whether those were filled out accurately or whether they omitted material information when signed under oath. We know that his financial disclosures for the ethics purposes were not complete and neglected to include those information. We also know that, you know, reportedly he was dishonest about his conversation with the Russian ambassador.
Clearly, he is asking for immunity. Clearly the Justice Department has equities here, but all of that is in the public realm and I'm confined to talking about what is in the public realm.
CUOMO: Also in the public realm, what is going on with Susan Rice. As you suggested, should she come before the committee and testify?
SCHIFF: We are doing what we ought to do in the ordinary course of events, and that is overseeing any issues regarding minimization, any issues regarding the masking of names or unmasking of names that are incidentally collected. I can't comment on the content of any material or who may have masked or unmasked names. That's not something I can get into. But if there is anyone in the course of our appropriate oversight that should be brought before the committee, I welcome that opportunity.
[08:10:00] What I don't welcome, though, is trying to besmirch the reputation of someone who served the country very well. And I don't know what it is about Susan Rice that has always drawn the fascination and ire and suspicion and conspiracy theories of that Breitbart crowd, but they're at it again, and I think it is really a disservice to someone who is a very dedicated public servant.
CUOMO: But testifying doesn't have to be damning, right? It could be a point of clarification for her that might disempower anything that you're calling scandalous or slander of her or of her reputation. At a minimum, there is some objective basis for questioning on an apparent disconnect in what she said during her PBS interview and what she has said more recently. Her saying she didn't know what Nunes was talking about, that does warrant some type of further questioning, doesn't it?
SCHIFF: What I'm taking issue with is people that are making the slanderous accusation that she was taking intelligence or politicizing it or urging the intelligence agencies somehow to surveil Donald Trump. I think that's nonsense, as she pointed out on Andrea Mitchell's program.
Whether she has pertinent testimony or not, I can't say. If she does, we'd be happy to have her come in. But at the same time, people that are saying that, you know, she's the Typhoid Mary of national security, that's grossly irresponsible to say those kind of things, particularly people who aren't privy to any of the information. So it's deeply disturbing when I see that kind of accusation leveled.
CUOMO: All right, so at this point you don't know if Susan Rice is going to come before the committee?
SCHIFF: If she has pertinent testimony, I'm sure that she will be invited, as will others. But again, I think one point that we're trying to keep in mind, and that is the real focus of our investigation is on the Trump connections to Russia, the U.S. response to the Russian hacking, Russia's involvement not only in our own election but in that of our European allies. And we are not going to lose focus on that no matter how much cloud and dust is thrown in our way. We as a matter of our ordinary oversight look into issues of minimization, but we are not going to let the White House or anyone else distract us from our core focus.
CUOMO: A unique challenge when the chairman of your own committee was doing exactly that by many indications.
SCHIFF: Can I make one other point on that subject?
SCHIFF: The White House clearly only wanted one person to see these documents, and that person was our chairman. He reluctantly had to allow myself to view it and the chair and ranking on Senate Intel. Now I want the full committees to be able to see that, and we're meeting resistance. If these documents are so damming, or so vindicating of the president as he suggests, why are they opposing efforts to provide them to the full committee? I think that's a question worthy of the White House answering.
CUOMO: All right, thank you very much, congressman. Please feel free to come on NEW DAY with any developments that the public need to know about.
SCHIFF: Thank you, Chris.
CAMEROTA: Well, President Trump is facing several international crises. Congressman Adam Kinzinger, an Iraq war veteran, joins us next to explain how the White House should respond.
[08:16:49] CAMEROTA: President Trump condemning the chemical attack in Syria, but he's blaming his predecessor, President Obama. Leaders around the world are calling for Syria's Assad to be removed. But President Trump's administration is saying something quite different.
Joining us now is Republican Congressman Adam Kinzinger of Illinois. He's a member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee and he served in the U.S. Air Force in both Afghanistan and Iraq.
Congressman, thanks so much for being here.
REP. ADAM KINZINGER (R), ILLINOIS: You've bet. Yes, thanks.
CAMEROTA: You have called what's going on in Syria, quote, "absolutely horrific". What do you want the U.S. to do?
KINZINGER: Look, this is the first time we have accepted since 2013 and the time since, this is the first conflict that we have accepted the fact of the use of chemical weapons on the battlefield since World War I. It was a standard we held strong as a free world. We upheld a no-fly zone over Iraq for a decade because of the use of chemical weapons.
This can't be tolerated. I think you have a short and long term goal here. I think the short term is you are going to have to go some air strikes against the Assad regime. That means hitting some of their command and control, so effectively decapitating Assad from his fielded forces and commanding them, and then making it clear if another chemical weapon attack happens, there will be more punishing strikes to follow.
In the long-term, I think that's a -- that is the strategy to be the stick behind being able to get to a diplomatic solution because up to now, you know, we want to have a negotiated solution that does not include Assad, but there has been no stick or motivation to get to the table.
CAMEROTA: But, Congressman, why do we have to wait for an attack?
KINZINGER: Well, I don't -- I mean, I don't think we do. I think, right now, we have to strike the regime in response to this. This is a major violation of all international norms. I think, again, you decapitate, hitting command and control. I think you ground the Syrian air force and you can do that without a full no-fly zone.
You can crater the runways that the aircraft take off on so that they can't take off. If they repair it, you crater it again. You shoot down the helicopters that are delivering these barrel bombs.
I know it is frightening for Americans because we've been involved in the Middle East for a very long time. This is a limited objective with the purpose of forcing the parties back to the table because it's only going to get worse.
CAMEROTA: Why aren't you calling for Assad to be removed? KINZINGER: Oh, I am. I think he should be done. And I think as part
of this, that's -- I thought that Bashar al-Assad is actually really, frankly, the creator of ISIS because he's creating this next generation of recruits that live in such a terrible environment that it is easy for groups like ISIS or al Qaeda to come along and recruit them.
I don't think there's a future for Syria with Bashar al-Assad in existence and I think that is something that this administration, you know, frankly, like the last one failed to do. They did in words but not in deeds. This administration is going to have to come to that reality or this problem is sadly only going to continue and get worse.
CAMEROTA: Congressman, this is exactly the opposite of what this administration has said. Just this week, Secretary Tillerson and Ambassador Haley said just the opposite of what you're saying.
CAMEROTA: They're saying that their top priority, in fact, any priority is no longer to get rid of Bashar Assad.
KINZINGER: Yes. Well, I get one further on it. They said in fact that the future of Syria should be up to the Syrian people. And I would argue the Syrian people when they started protesting in the streets peacefully and then when they were murdered and continued to protest and fight against Assad made it very clear that they want a future without Bashar al-Assad.
[08:20:08] The problem is, for too long, we sat back and everybody shares the blame here. I mean, even during the red line strikes, there were Republicans out arguing against giving the president the authority.
So, everybody I think shares some blame. I fear this is going to be our generation -- Bill Clinton said his greatest regret was not intervention in Rwanda and I think that really weighs on his heart. I fear all of us out here are going to bear the same feeling when it comes to Syria.
CAMEROTA: Congressman, Bashar al-Assad apparently used chemical weapons this week on his own people. We are seeing videos of children asphyxiating to death.
KINZINGER: It is disgusting.
CAMEROTA: Why is this administration saying it is up to the Syrian people to take them on?
KINZINGER: What's interesting here, and I hope that changes, by the way. I hope that this is a calculus that the administration looks at and says they violated a huge norm obviously. Iran and Russia, Russia supposedly had this deal to get rid of all sarin gas. They used sarin gas apparently. So, there's a lot of accountability to be held here.
But I hope the administration sees this as an opportunity to go back and say Bashar Assad must go and not just say it in words. But we need action, too.
CAMEROTA: Yes. But, Congressman, I'm sorry to interrupt you. But what gives you at all the impression that that's the direction that they will go, given what they have said this week?
KINZINGER: I don't have that. I don't have that feeling yet. But I think this is so horrific, this could begin to change the tide.
But, look, I've been critical of this administration's policy on Syria. I think to acquiescing Syria to the Russians, to the Iranians is going to only create another generation of terrorists and what I fear is that next generation of war on terror, which isn't a war at all, it is giving that next generation of opportunity. But when they live under the oppression of Assad, when they see their family killed and they think the world isn't looking, it is much easier to be recruited as a 15-year-old into ISIS when you have no hope than a 15- year-old with opportunity.
CAMEROTA: This morning, Congressman, we spoke with a seven-year-old Bana Alabed. She's the little girl who has a Twitter feed. It is her messages that have sort of gripped the world and gotten them to focus on the atrocity of what's going on inside there because she's witnessed it. She had to be evacuated. She's a refugee now in Turkey.
Let me play for you what her message was to the U.S. and the world.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BANA ALABED, 7-YEAR-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 that the children of Syria play and go to school.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CAMEROTA: Her wants are quite modest. She wants the children of Syria to be able to play and go to school. What do you say as a representative in our government to Bana?
KINZINGER: So I'm ashamed of our government's actions so far and inaction. I wish I had the ability to move forces to do what needs to be done.
What I would tell to her is, look, people are paying attention. The problem is we need more people to pay attention and get passed our fear of action, you know, because of what we felt the wars have been like in the past. We're not talking about another Iraq 3 here, but we're talking about a terrible humanitarian crisis.
And the thing I try to remind people in this, whether it was Omran, the little boy sitting in the ambulance or this young girl, or some of the ones who are killed in yesterday's chemical attack, these are all kids that want to be teachers, they want to be doctors, they want to be police officers, they dream of having a family of their own some day. And an evil dictator named Bashar al-Assad decides it is to his political advantage to put chemical weapons in their face and choke them to death. That's what's happening.
And until the Western world stands up, until Republican or Democratic administration stands up, this is not a partisan issue. This is going to continue.
CAMEROTA: President Trump has not tweeted about this. He has not made an on camera statement. What are you calling on him to do today?
KINZINGER: Well, I hope he does make an on camera statement. I hope, you know, he does tweet about it. I think the administration needs a plan to rally our allies together. I think in the short term, again, grounding as much as the Assad air force as possible. I think punishing strikes to make it clear that the cost offer using chemical weapons far exceeds any perceived benefit because it is going to cost you buildings and tanks and assets.
I think that's the beginning of using the military instrument of power to back the diplomatic instrument of power. But we've got to quit pretending this is going to burn itself out. It simply isn't. This is an apartment on fire in an apartment building. It's not a house on fire in an isolated neighborhood.
CAMEROTA: Congressman Kinzinger, thanks so much for being on NEW DAY.
KINZINGER: Thanks for talking about this important subject.
CAMEROTA: Thank you. Thank you for your perspective.
CUOMO: All right. A lot of this comes down to messages and from the White House we seem to be getting mixed messages. The White House says the clock has run out on North Korea, while the president's top diplomat issues a basic non-statement.
[08:25:04] Are they on the same page on Syria's Assad? You just saw one part of the party's perspective. That's different than what's coming out of the White House. We discuss.
CUOMO: Why are we seeing mixed messages from the White House and its top officials on North Korea and Syria? Are they on the same page?
Let's discuss. We have CNN political commentators, Jen Psaki, former State Department spokesperson and White House communications director for the Obama administration and former senior advisor to the Trump campaign, Jack Kingston, former congressman.
Jack, when we're talking about Syria, you have fresh proof of the alleged tyranny of Assad, using nerve gas on his own people, killing kids. The word from the White House is Assad is Syria's problem. What do you think of that position?
JACK KINGSTON, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, that's not all they said. As you said, there were some mixed signals. One of them was that Tillerson said it was a barbaric act and hideous and so forth. And Nikki Haley was very strong in her words.