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Mixed Messages from Administration; Health Care Reform Battle; Battle over Gorsuch; Chef's Life Transformed; Trump Deal with International Crises; Tweets go up in Smoke. Aired 8:30-9a ET

Aired April 5, 2017 - 08:30   ET


[08:30:00] JACK KINGSTON, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: And so forth and Nikki Haley was very strong in her words and the White House has been, I think, maybe in the position where they're going to have to determine, can they get an international coalition together to deal with Assad? Does that mean removing Assad? I also think that as you just heard from Adam Kinzinger, there's going to be a lot of discussion on Capitol Hill, which is also going to help drive and formulate the White House policy, but I don't think they're there yet.

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: Yes, but, Jack, I just -- well, they're not there yet. I mean when you say there's been very strong words from Nikki Haley, she basically said it's no longer our top priority dealing with Assad.

KINGSTON: Well, that was before this attack. And I think -- remember, the Obama administration had eight years of some words, lots of inaction. This administration is still getting its feet on the ground. They're faced with a serious situation in North Korea right now as well. So I think what we're going to have to do is not decide, well these words mean they don't know what they're doing. I think these words mean that the plan isn't there yet and we don't know really what that plan is, if it is --

CAMEROTA: Wait, wait, wait. Just -- I'm sorry -- I just have to challenge you. Which words are we supposed to believe, that that is not their priority, that Assad is no longer their priority, those were specific, explicit words. So that's not -- what plan do you hear there?

KINGSTON: Well, what I -- what I hear, frankly, is a work under progress. What are we going to do? What's the international community going to do? There's been a lot of strong words internationally. An emergency meeting of the U.N. Security Council called for today since this attack. And so I think this changes things or maybe it refocuses it. This as Tillerson said, this is a barbaric act. It shows a brutal regime --

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: Right. Everybody agrees -- everybody agrees with what their eyes are telling them. The question is, what are you going to do about it? And, you know, maybe there is -- that's a -- it's as plain as Jack's making it, Jen, which is, you know, they wanted to get out of Syria. They were using what happened with the Obama administration of proof of the toll of inaction here. So we're going to move away. Let the Syrians deal with this. No more wasting American blood and treasure on unsolvable situations. Then you have this attack and now it looks like an egregious omission.

JENNIFER PSAKI, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well -- well, yes. And I think the fact is that in international diplomacy your words do matter and you have the king of Jordan coming today to meet with President Trump and I'm sure he is wondering in his hotel room today what, this morning, what are -- what is the priority, what is the focus of this administration. So if you look at the situation in Syria, yes, of course the new attack, the horrific images that we've seen of children, that should change their calculus, and it should change how seriously they take the threat of Assad and what words they use to address the threat that he poses and how they're going to go after him. That's important to send that message to the international community because the United States continues to be a leader in the international community.

CUOMO: Except you have the current White House saying this is on you because you guys didn't do anything. You drew that bogus red line. He tap danced all over it. The president did nothing. And now you have the current situation. So it's on you and now they have to figure out a new way forward.

PSAKI: Well -- well, Chris, I recognize it's not you, it's the current administration saying that, but the reality is that's ignoring the history of the last three years. President Obama didn't move forward with military action because he couldn't get congressional support. After that he helped lead an effort to remove chemical weapons from Syria, the declared chemical weapons from Syria. If he had not done that, there is no doubt ISIL would have used those chemical weapons on the people there. And he also led an international coalition to help use military action.

So the fact that President Trump is the president now. He needs to put his big boy pants on and start acting like it.


PSAKI: And you can't say you're new and so you can't -- you don't know what to do. Now is the time to act. He needs to be clear today with the leader of Jordan on what his actions are and what his priorities are.

CAMEROTA: Go ahead, congressman.

KINGSTON: Well, let me say this. While Jen is right, we do have a new administration now, let's not act like those were accomplishments. There were eight other chemical attacks under President Obama. I think that was the number that I saw in one report. 2013 was the most visible one in which he made his red line statement, did not do anything about that. Where is this international coalition that President Obama put together? Why isn't it doing anything? If -- if he left this as finished business because unfinished business --

CAMEROTA: Well, but, I mean, you have heard -- I mean, congressman, sorry to interrupt, but you have heard the leaders of France, and Israel and U.K. condemning this. Even Iran condemning this.

KINGSTON: Can -- yes.

CAMEROTA: Maybe there can be an international coalition today.

KINGSTON: And -- and I agree, but let's not act like there was one. Let's don't act like there is one. Let's don't' act like President Trump inherited one. It has to be rebuilt. And I think there's not an international consensus right now on what to do with Assad. Adam Kinzinger was very clear that he wants Assad removed, but I bet if you put that on the House floor today, there would be a very small minority who would support that position. But I think it -- I think it's a legitimate discussion.

[08:35:02] CUOMO: Right, as there was when you were there. As there was when you were there. The part of the story that the Republicans don't like telling right now is what Jen Psaki just pointed out. So the president, Obama, drew that red line. They clearly crossed it. I did one of the first interviews with him there. I was all over him about the fact that if this doesn't cross the red line, what would? He went into like 24 hours from saying let's go slow here to wanting to bomb. He then went to you guys and there was no resolve. A lack of resolve that's echoed in our current president, who at the time, in 2013, told President Obama, Donald Trump did in a Twitter -- in a tweet, you can go look at it, don't go into Syria, don't go into Syria. So you talk about building a coalition, but did the U.S. ever have the resolve on the congressional side to do anything about Syria?

KINGSTON: You know what, let me -- let me say, Jen is right, you are right, there was not a congressional resolve. However, Congress did not say to President Obama, go out and make such a statement and Bill Clinton started bombing in Kosovo and Reagan did air strikes in Lebanon, I believe, without congressional approval because --

CUOMO: Because you -- and you guys let him do it because you abdicated your constitutional responsibility to declare war and you're happy with an (INAUDIBLE) 2001.

KINGSTON: But -- but what I'm saying -- but I think both President Clinton and President Reagan realized that the United States prestigious word was at stake and that it would save lives in the long run to follow up on what you said.

But let me say this. The other thing is, I was there for that and I was also there when George Bush had to build a coalition to go into Iraq and Afghanistan, and that's what took -- that's what leadership's all about. We did not get that out of President Obama.

CAMEROTA: We'll see what happens today with President Trump.

Congressman Kingston, Jen Psaki, thank you very much.


PSAKI: Thank you. CAMEROTA: So there are many major political battles on Capitol Hill. Vice President Pence is pushing health care reform. OK, that his -- the new plan, whatever that is. This as the Supreme Court fight could change the Senate's rules. We have a live report on all of these show- downs, next.


[08:40:34] CUOMO: All right, two big showdowns gripping Capitol Hill. You've got the vice president trying to revive the health care fight and the Senate trying to confirm Trump's Supreme Court nominee.

CNN's Sunlen Serfaty live on Capitol Hill with more on both.

What do you got?

SUNLEN SERFATY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Chris, the White House continues its full scale blitz on health care up here on Capitol Hill. You have Mike Pence expected up here later today, his third straight day notably up here, trying to revive this health care bill. And last night after meeting with the conservative House Freedom Caucus, we saw their chairman, Mark Meadows, emerge and say, yes, they're taking steps in the right direction, making some sort of progress.

But, notably, there are -- there is no legislative text to this new bill. There's still no agreements on the contours of the bill. And very notably, the same divide between conservatives and moderates that you had that brought down this bill before, still very much exist.

Now, over to the battle here in the Senate. We have Republicans taking the first procedural step, putting the wheels in motion, setting up using the nuclear option on Thursday to get Neil Gorsuch, the Supreme Court nominee, through. Democrats have been railing against this. And I want to show you some live picture now on the Senate floor. Senator Jeff Murkily (INAUDIBLE) in his 13 hour straight holding on the Senate floor. Now, this is purely a protest. He can do nothing to delay the inevitable that's going to happen on Thursday invoking the nuclear option. That sets up a vote for Friday.

Back to you guys.

CAMEROTA: That does look exhausting, what they're going through.

CUOMO: He at least still has a chart there, though, you know. We're going to see if he gets to the Ted Cruz "Green Eggs and Ham" point of nothingness.

CAMEROTA: Show and tell does help. Thank you, Sunlen, very much.

So these international crises are unfolding in Syria and North Korea. David Axelrod is going to be here with his biggest worry on "The Bottom Line."

CUOMO: All right, but, first, celebrity chef Andrew Zimmern is known for eating bizarre foods on TV.


CUOMO: But before he was famous, his life was spiraling out of control because of drug and alcohol addiction. A one-way plane ticket turned his life around. That's the story in "Turning Points."


ANDREW ZIMMERN: My grandmother taught me how to cook when I was six, seven years old.

I'm Andrew Zimmern, chef, traveler, teacher.

When I came back from summer camp, age 13, my mother was in a coma. It was a very painful time in my life. By the time I was in tenth grade, I was a daily drinker, a daily pot smoker, a daily pill taker. Eventually, I graduated college and started cooking at some great restaurants. I was very high functioning and then it stops working.

By this time I'm 30. I became homeless for 11 months and I was a petty criminal. A couple friends put together an intervention and I got a one-way plane ticket to Minnesota, a couple packs of smokes and $20. I was OK with coming to a treatment center, a place that friends of mine had gotten well.

Then took a job as a dishwasher. One day one of the line cooks called in sick. So I put up the grill station. The owner said, can you please explain to me why the dishwasher just put out food that looks better than when my chef puts food out. Then I remade my career here in the Twin Cities.

I came up with an idea about a food and culture show and took it to Travel Channel and we're now into our 11th year. Everything I was as an addict and an alcoholic has formed who I am today. There is not a day that goes by that I'm not doing something for someone else. That's my medicine.



[08:48:16] CAMEROTA: President Trump is facing several international crises in Syria and North Korea. A short time ago on NEW DAY, Congressman Adam Kinzinger said this about the U.S. reaction to Syria.


REP. ADAM KINZINGER (R), ILLINOIS: 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. And an evil dictator named Bashar al Assad decides that 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.

(END VIDEO CLIP) CAMEROTA: Let's get "The Bottom Line" now with CNN's senior political commentator and former senior advisor to President Obama, David Axelrod.

Good morning, David.


CAMEROTA: What we just heard there from Congressman Kinzinger is quite different from what the -- whatever policy, if that's what you call it, we've heard from the Trump White House where, as you know, Secretary of State Tillerson and Ambassador Nikki Haley have said, getting rid of Assad is no longer a priority.

AXELROD: Yes, that was the wrong signal. They said that the day before this chemical attack. And, you know, I don't know if there's a connection, but if you send that signal, Bashar al Assad hears it and obviously feels freer to do what he wants to do.

Listen, Adam Kinzinger's a friend of mine and I respect him greatly and I respect where his comments are coming from. It is a very complex thing. One thing he didn't mention is that the Russians are deeply involved in Syria now, including with their military forces. And so if you decide to strike at Assad, you have to calculate in the fact that the Russians are also in that theater of war and how are they going to react to that. So it's more complex.

[08:50:09] And there's always been the issue of, you know, if you destabilize Assad, what comes next and what would the U.S. role be there? But, listen, this is heart-wrenching. Anybody with a heart who -- who isn't absolutely outraged by what we've seen on the screen from Syria in the last few days is not human. And so --

CUOMO: Right, but that's the easy part, right, Axe? I mean for a lawmaker to stand up and say, this is terrible what's going on and it's the lower bar for involvement that you have (INAUDIBLE) everybody.

CAMEROTA: But he spelled out exactly the involvement that he thought that they should do.

CUOMO: Right. And -- and --

CAMEROTA: I mean and it wasn't starting with getting rid of Assad.

AXELROD: Yes, and he said --

CUOMO: Right, and that's the point, though, Axe, is that --

AXELROD: He didn't. But the point is --

CUOMO: For a congressman to say --

AXELROD: Go ahead. Go ahead, Chris.

CUOMO: Like Kinzinger did, I mean why would he not be being in full earnest about it. Congress had an opportunity to pick up the ball and go in before Kinzinger was there.

AXELROD: They did.

CUOMO: But remind people, when Obama had the red line and it seemed incontrovertible that Syria crossed that red line, there was a moment of hesitation, but then what happened when Obama went to Congress and said, tell me whether or not you want military action.

AXELROD: Yes, there was -- there wasn't the support for it. And Kinzinger, to his credit, noted that when he was talking to you guys. Congress did not want the U.S. to go in. Obviously, Donald Trump was very emphatic at the time as a private citizen that he didn't want the U.S. to go in.

But we are where we are now and, to your first question, you know, one of the problems we have here is just incoherence in foreign policy from this administration. You -- we have two of the thorniest problems, the thorniest problem in international relations, North Korea and Syria, and on each there are inconsistent signals about who is speaking for the administration, what the administration's policy is. And in these instances, that's very, very dangerous.

Tomorrow is probably the most important day of the Trump administration yet, when the president sits down with President Xi of China and it's the Chinese who hold the key to what happens to North Korea. But in the last few days, on the -- on one day the president gives an interview and says if China doesn't act, we're going to have to take care of it ourselves. On the next day he says this is China's problem, they have to deal with it, and implying that, you know, we have a hands off policy on this.

You know, it is very, very dangerous. This North Korea -- the Syrian thing is a humanitarian crisis. The North Korea situation is a mortal threat to the United States of America. So what happens tomorrow in that summit and whether he can get the Chinese to seriously focus on containing North Korea is a very, very serious issue for the United States.

CAMEROTA: I mean, look, you know the president prides himself on being unpredictable, and that's what some of this suggests. He says one thing one day. He says another thing another day and we will see tomorrow how, you know, the president of China responds to all of that.

CUOMO: But what is interesting is that the president has chosen to say nothing about the Russian bombing, about the Syrian bombing, about the North Korean missile launch.


CUOMO: Nothing. That's unusual.


David Axelrod, we have to say good-bye to you. Thank you very much for being "The Bottom Line." AXELROD: OK. Good-bye.

CUOMO: Hump day "Good Stuff," next.



[08:57:23] CUOMO: All right, we have Bana Alabed, the Syrian kid, and now we have other kids showing us a possible way forward to something better. That's "The Good Stuff."

Fourth graders in California, they wanted to help out a local food bank, so they decided to start a fundraiser and raise some cash, right? The teacher behind it says it started in one classroom, but then it spread. Altogether the students helped raise enough money for more than 17,000 meals.

CAMEROTA: Oh, my gosh. That is wonderful, putting that into action.

CUOMO: Fourth graders.

CAMEROTA: That's fantastic.

All right, meanwhile, listen to this story. An engineer fed up with President Trump's tweets came up with a red hot idea. He created a robot to burn them. CNN's Jeanne Moos explains.


JEANNE MOOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): When President Trump tweets, it can leave his critics burning. So a robot builder decided to burn them. Each and every Trump tweet goes up in smoke with a message to @realdonaldtrump, "I burned your tweet."

MOOS (on camera): How often do you empty the ash tray?

DAVID NEEVEL: It's about once a day.

MOOS (voice-over): David Neevel says he is giving Trump's tweets the attention they deserve. He found himself annoyed by them. For him, the tweet burner is cathartic.

NEEVEL: It's a way to laugh through this, hopefully.

MOOS: Neevel specializes in making Rube Goldberg like gizmos that solve small problems in difficult ways, like this Oreo separating machine that separates the cream from the cookie --

NEEVEL: All right.

MOOS: Or the bottle cap remover activated by opening the refrigerator door. Or the mannequin that sprays deodorant on him.

Neevel is from Oregon, though he's currently doing freelance robotic engineering in the Netherlands. He spent a couple of weeks making himself the tweet burner.

MOOS (on camera): But where do you keep a tweet burning robot? It's got to be someplace low on flammability scale.

NEEVEL: It's on a little table I made that's in the bathtub.

MOOS: In the bathtub?


MOOS (voice-over): And while Trump rails against the failing "New York Times," the tweet burner itself sometimes fails, missing the ash tray or burning its own arm. It's cheap, tourist shop lighter once failed to light, temporarily sparing a tweet.

The burner e-mails Neevel when it receives a Trump tweet, and Neevel then gives the command to burn, rub-a-dub-dub, presidential tweets burned in the tub. When the president tweeted about a witch hunt, little did he know his tweet would end up burned at the stake.

[09:00:00] Jeanne Moos, CNN, New York.


CAMEROTA: I don't know, do you need a robot to put your deodorant on?

CUOMO: You could just unfollow. You could just do that if you --

CAMEROTA: Not as creative.

CUOMO: No, or as time consuming.

CAMEROTA: There you go.