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Trump: Chemical Attack Changed His View On Syria And Assad. Trump's History of Defending Men Under Fire. What Is The "Trump Doctrine"? Aired 7:30-8a ET

Aired April 6, 2017 - 07:30   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


[07:32:45] (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: And I will tell you that attack on children yesterday had a big impact on me -- big impact. That was a horrible, horrible thing and I've been watching it and seeing it and it doesn't get any worse than that. My attitude toward Syria and Assad has changed very much.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN HOST: President Trump changing his stance on Syria after a chemical attack that killed at least 86 innocent civilians, including children. This, as the president meets today with China's president. So what do the Democrats want President Trump to do about these international crises?Joining us now to discuss is Democratic Sen. Gary Peters of Michigan. Senator, thanks for being here.

SEN. GARY PETERS (D), MICHIGAN: Well, it's great to be with you.

CAMEROTA: So what should the White House do about the chemical attack in Syria?

PETERS: Well, it is time to take a very strong stand against Assad. It's -- you know, I heard the president's comments yesterday. We're not sure exactly what that means that he has had a change. We do know the previous comments were that, perhaps, Assad should stay, we're not going to get involved. Clearly, that should not be the case, particularly after this horrific attack on the people in Syria --

CAMEROTA: You're calling for --

PETERS: -- and the women and children.

CAMEROTA: You're calling for Assad to be ousted.

PETERS: Absolutely. He has no business being there. He needs to go. And I think the Trump administration needs to make a very strong statement to that effect and also actively engage, you know, the Russians. You know, here we have the Russians denying this activity. They are clearly with Assad and it -- I think this is probably another test for the Trump administration. Are you going to continue to side with the Russians or are we going to have a path that's really the path for America on our own national security? So, the Russians have got to stop propping up Assad. Trump should try

to work with them to try get them to condemn Assad, and then make sure that the world community unites, as well, to push him out. He simply cannot stay there.

CAMEROTA: Well, I think it's fair to say that the administration's message on the fate of Assad has been mixed.

PETERS: Right.

CAMEROTA: I mean, just as recently as this week, you heard Ambassador Nikki Haley saying that is no longer a U.S. priority, getting rid of Assad, and then yesterday she said something that sounded quite different. Let me play for you what she said to the U.N.

[07:35:03] PETERS: Yes.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

NIKKI HALEY, U.S. AMBASSADOR TO U.N.: When the United Nations consistently fails in its duty to act collectively, there are times in the life of states that we are compelled to take our own action.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CAMEROTA: Senator, what does that mean, take our own action?

PETERS: Well, I'm not sure. I don't think any of us know what that means but we've got foreign policy from the Trump administration now that's all over the board. They're OK with Assad one week, now then they're not. Then they're saying we're going to take direct action. You can't run foreign policy just by reacting to the events of the day but not giving any clear direction. That's why you have incidents like the one we're confronting right now with a chemical attack.

You need to have firm, consistent foreign policy and the world needs to know where the United States is and the Trump administration, apparently, has no idea what they should do. They're making kind of blanket statements that have no substance.

I think it's an example of why we need to make sure we have a State Department that can function to bring some diplomacy and some consistency to foreign policy, which is why it's so surprising, at the same time, the Trump administration is basically trying to slash the Department of State budget -- our diplomats. Our folks who are experts in this area that can provide some advice as to how we have a consistent, strong policy. They seem be going the opposite direction.

CAMEROTA: I mean, Senator, frankly, you make it sound easy, getting rid of Assad as though that's the sort of obvious answer, but I think that the Trump White House has said in the past that regime change has not always proven easy or worked out well. So what happens then? You get rid of Assad, what happens the next day?

PETERS: Well, you've got to take a variety of steps and I'm not going to say this is easy. It is not easy but you need to get the world committee together. You've got to step up and make sure the Russians are not there protecting Assad, which they're doing right now. The Russians are clearly not our friend. They're not a friend of the world community. They're causing even more chaos in that area. He needs to go.

But we also need to make sure we're protecting the Syrian people. I have consistently talked about having safe zones. That will require the world community coming together to have areas where people can feel safe. The world community will step up and provide that type of security. The Syrian people have been at war for far too long. The tragedy there is absolutely catastrophic. It's time to try to find some stability and it is a multi-step approach. It starts with getting rid of Assad, it then leads to safe zones to keep the people safe, and then we work towards a political solution to bring people together.

CAMEROTA: Senator, quickly, I want to ask you about the meeting today between President Trump and President Xi of China. They will be talking about another international crisis and that is North Korea's ballistic missile testing. But I know that your concern is much closer to home. You want the president to press the Chinese president about unfair trade practices and things that they're doing with steel. The things that would affect the people of your home state, Michigan. Now, if the president presses China's president on all of that stuff, doesn't that then diminish the request for help in North Korea?

PETERS: Well, I think it's absolutely essential that he pushes the economic issues. We have to make sure that we're standing up for American jobs. That should be a priority with him when he meets. We have to deal with -- you mentioned the dumping of steel, but we also have trade violations all across the board. The United States has to let the Chinese government know that we will not tolerate those types of behaviors anymore. That we will have swift, really tough action and trade enforcement. We also have to deal with currency manipulation, which is an ongoing issue that impacts our ability to have fair trade.

You know, we can compete with the Chinese every single day as long as the rules are fair. The Chinese don't have that view. They try to take advantage of us every step of the way. The president needs to make it very clear the United States will not tolerate that.

CAMEROTA: Senator Gary Peters, thank you very much for being here.

PETERS: Thank you.

CAMEROTA: Chris --

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN HOST: All right, so Fox News' Bill O'Reilly just got a huge boost as a defender. The President of the United States weighs in. This is not the first time that the president has taken the man's side of a harassment allegation. We have the history of it, next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[07:43:00] CAMEROTA: An outbreak of severe storms has been pummeling the southeast, a tornado uprooting trees and tearing apart homes in Alabama. Parts of Atlanta are underwater. You can see here crews rushing to rescue these folks who were stuck in the flood. CNN meteorologist Jennifer Gray has our forecast. What are you seeing, Jennifer?

JENNIFER GRAY, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Well, Alisyn, it's not over yet. We did have almost 10 tornadoes reported yesterday and the threat is still there. Not as great as it was yesterday but we still have that tornado watch in effect for portions of Virginia, North Carolina. Zooming out, here's the big picture. Also, some pretty strong storms in north Florida this morning. We're going to see a wet day all across the east. It's going to be bad for travel, especially.

Look at the radar. You can see showers coming through New York City, impacting places like Boston. Here's the severe threat for today -- damaging winds, hail, isolated tornadoes. This is in about an hour. You can see Richmond in the rain, D.C. getting some of that as well. As we go through right around lunchtime, New York City, it is going to be wet for you, as well as Boston. All the major cities today, Chris, will get a lot of rain in the northeast. Watch out for flooding as well as travel delays.

CUOMO: All right, thank you, my friend. Appreciate the update.

Another big story this morning, President Trump defending Fox News host Bill O'Reilly against sexual harassment allegations despite exhibiting no apparent knowledge of the allegations. Trump said O'Reilly should not have settled and that he thinks he did nothing wrong. Now, this isn't the first time the president has defended high-powered men accused of sexual harassment. CNN's Brynn Gingras has more.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BRYNN GINGRAS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: As Fox News heavyweight Bill O'Reilly fights off sexual harassment claims, Donald Trump is in his corner. The president telling "The New York Times" O'Reilly is a good person and "I think he shouldn't have settled because you should have taken it all the way. I don't think Bill did anything wrong."

[07:45:00] Five women who accused O'Reilly of sexual harassment received payouts totaling about $13 million, according to "The New York Times." The cable show host denies the allegations. Even still, more than 30 big-name brands are pulling their ad dollars from his top-rated program, "The O'Reilly Factor."

The president's comments about the Fox anchor may seem like deja vu, as he also defended the network's former boss, Roger Ailes when he was sued for sexual harassment last year. Back then, Trump also characterized Ailes as a good person and he questioned the motives of his accusers.

TRUMP: I can tell you that some of the women that are complaining, I know how much he's helped them, and even recently. And when they write books that are fairly recently released and they say wonderful things about him, and now all of a sudden they're saying these horrible things about him.

Mike Tyson has been somebody --

GINGRAS: Trump was criticized for seemingly blaming the victim decades ago after fighter Mike Tyson was convicted of raping an 18- year-old beauty pageant contestant.

TRUMP: It's my opinion that, to a large extent, Mike Tyson was railroaded in this case. You have a young woman who was seen dancing for the beauty contest -- dancing with a big smile on her face, looked happy as could be.

GINGRAS: The president's recent remarks about O'Reilly comes days after declaring April "National Sexual Assault Awareness and Prevention Month," a crime he's been accused of by a number of women, many who went public with their allegations during the campaign last year. That, after this notorious audio leak of Trump bragging on a bus in 2005.

TRUMP: And when you're a star they let you do it. You can do anything.

BILLY BUSH, FORMER HOST, "ACCESS HOLLYWOOD": Whatever you want.

TRUMP: Grab them by the (bleep).

GINGRAS: Trump brushed that off as "locker room banter" and later released this video on his Facebook page, saying he's a changed man.

TRUMP: Anyone who knows me knows these words don't reflect who I am. I said it, I was wrong, and I apologize.

GRINGRAS: Brynn Gingras, CNN, New York.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

CAMEROTA: Meanwhile, the president's "America First" foreign policy is being put to the test. What is the Trump doctrine? Two people who worked for President George W. Bush's White House discuss how they see it, next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[07:51:00] CUOMO: President Trump is facing international crises, plural. You've got consequences going on for what happened in Syria, potentially in North Korea, and Russia. The president's "America First" policy is now being tested. So what exactly is the Trump doctrine?

Joining us now, two former officials in the George W. Bush administration. Matt Schlapp, former political director to President Bush and current chairman of the American Conservative Union. And, David Frum, former Bush speechwriter and current senior editor of "The Atlantic."

So, David Frum, let me start with you. It was meddling doesn't work. We're going to stay out, we're going to fight ISIS. We heard it loud and clear from Tillerson and Haley just within days. Assad is not our problem, let them figure it out. And then, coincidentally or not, you have this bombing -- these ugly images -- and the president says I've had a change. How significant a pivot are you seeing?

DAVID FRUM, SENIOR EDITOR, "THE ATLANTIC", FORMER GEORGE W. BUSH SPEECHWRITER: Not very. One of the defining characteristics of Donald Trump -- and America's adversaries in the world have surely noted this -- is that he issues threats and does not executive. We see that at home and we see that abroad. Many of the threats, by the way, are threats he should never have issued in the first place. I think we're all glad that he doesn't sue every newspaper that he threatens to sue, but adversaries notice he doesn't sue the newspapers he threatens to sue.

He doesn't carry out the investigations of voter fraud that -- again, they're false but we're glad he doesn't do it but he says he will -- he doesn't do it. And I think international adversaries have taken the mark. Trump bluffs and he doesn't follow through.

CUOMO: Matt Schlapp, Marco Rubio says he thinks it was a mistake. He doesn't think it was a coincidence that one day Assad hears he's not on the U.S. radar and the next day he kills kids with toxic gas. What do you think?

MATT SCHLAPP, CHAIRMAN, AMERICAN CONSERVATIVE UNION, FORMER GEORGE W. BUSH POLITICAL DIRECTOR: Yes, a pretty serious charge and comments from Marco Rubio, but it also shows you that words matter and have immediate consequences. And Ithink Sec. Tillerson and others -- it's a moment to reflect upon the fact that the whole world is watching when they talk. And I think presidents and new administrations tend to get mugged by reality. You come into office, you get sworn in, there's a lot of pomp and circumstance, and then reality hits. And the world is a very scary and dangerous place and this rather green foreign policy team is having to confront it.

CUOMO: So what do you think they're going to do here because we know the window is not that big? What we say in 2013 was every bit as bad and numerically much worse than what we just saw. So, nothing happened there. There wasn't the resolve. Yes, you're getting more chirping out of Congress to do something now than you did with Obama back then, but do you think anything happens that's materially different?

SCHLAPP: If that's to me, Chris --

CUOMO: Yes, Matt.

SCHLAPP: -- the concern I have is this, which is we continue to follow this kind of false choice of do we knock out a dictator or do we knock out the terrorists or do we knock out both? And what I worry about is, you know, airstrikes only go so far. We know that. They sound great because it doesn't sound like there will be boots on the ground, but the fact is if we're going to get serious, then it's a big deployment. We've done this in other Middle Eastern countries and we look back as a country and we say was that the right way to approach it, being that interventionist, that aggressive.

I think the real question Americans have across the country -- I think Donald Trump, you know, resonated with them -- is do we put our brave young men and women in the military in between radicalized Sunni and Shia and let them lose their lives and get an outcome that we still look back at and say what was it for?

CUOMO: Right, but Americans, David Frum, are also going to weigh and measure the president based on what he's promised to do. That's happening at home. It's going to also happen with promises abroad, you know. They've crossed too many lines, now I feel differently. North Korea, we'll go it alone. He had written in books many years ago that he had thoughts of going at North Korea militarily to stop them. Is he now in a box where he has to act on those words?

[07:55:10] FRUM: He won't act so, obviously, he doesn't have to. Look at the North Korea situation. Donald -- the Trump administration's idea seems to be to put pressure on China, to put pressure on North Korea. Why didn't anybody ever think of that before? Well, everybody has thought of that before. The question -- the question is how many instrumentalities of power do you have against China and how do you use them?

Donald Trump has one fewer instrumentality against China than all of his predecessors do and that is that he and his family are very financially beholden to the Chinese. The Chinese are, right now, licensing his daughter's brands. The Chinese have granted Donald Trump trademarks that he had sought and been refused for years. A Chinese bank with connections to the state just tried to do the Kushner family a $400 million bailout on a troubled office building on Fifth Avenue. The Chinese recognize how the Trump family does business because that's how their leaders do business, and they understand that if you put a little something on the table you get a warmer smile.

But that very -- taking those emoluments makes it difficult then for you to credibly say to the Chinese, this time it's different. This time it's different from George W. Bush. This time it's different from Obama. This time we really mean it when we say you have to cut off the North Korean -- your trade with North Korea.

CUOMO: Matt Schlapp, David Frum using that word "emoluments." That's a constitutional word.

SCHLAPP: Yes, it is.

CUOMO: You were giving it a headshake. You don't like what he says. Why?

SCHLAPP: Well look, it just doesn't make any sense because if there's any power on the globe that Trump has been the toughest on, it's been China. Now we have this big meeting and we'll see how it goes, but I --

CUOMO: Well, you've got to define -- what do you mean the toughest, though? You mean how he's talked because there is -- SCHLAPP: I think that -- well, you asked --

CUOMO: -- something to what David's saying in terms of his actions -- his personal actions. He's been big on China. He wants to be close to China with his business relationships. Politically, he's said they're raping the U.S.

SCHLAPP: Look, it's an important relationship and I think most observers of this past campaign and Donald Trump, as president, would say he is dramatically changing our position vis-a-vis China. I know it's true because everybody in Washington is panicked over what this means. And when you say what is the Trump doctrine the one thing I see is this, which is no longer are we going to shed America's economic interests for strategic interests around the globe. I think he's going to put America's economic interests front and center and he's going to do this with the relationship with China. And I think China understands this very clearly, as well.

I think we can make all of the, you know -- David can make all of the charges he wants about the ethics around Donald Trump's business but at the end of the day the ethics is overseen, certainly by Ivanka and Jared, by some of the most premier Democratic lawyers who have worked for Democratic presidents. You know, they have set this up in the correct way. Yes, it's unconventional, but nobody can question the fact that Donald Trump is going to be tougher on China than we've seen on any president in the last 20 years.

CUOMO: Well, we'll have to see on what he actually does. In terms of the ethics, David, I'll give you the last word. The last time I checked, lawyers do what you tell them to do.

SCHLAPP: He got the first word.

FRUM: The ethical tribune that Matt is referring to is Jamie Gorelick, who worked and took $26 million out of the collapse of Fannie Mae. That is, I think, probably the first time on air that any Republican has referenced her as their moral guide. But these are new times -- we have new values.

CUOMO: All right, gentlemen, good Parry and Riposte. I like it. We're following a lot of news here on NEW DAY. Let's get after it.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: When you kill innocent children, that crosses many, many lines.

MARCO RUBIO (R), FLORIDA: This would never have been possible had they not had the cover Putin has given them.

HALEY: How many more children have to die before Russia cares?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: North Korea's capacity is increasing. You have to communicate your willingness to take action.

SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER (D), NEW YORK: Be strong. Don't let China continue to take advantage of us.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think the national security adviser advised thinks things will go better when Mr. Bannon returns to a more appropriate role.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's not illegal to be able to use information that's gathered officially for political purposes.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What has gone on here was lawful, appropriate, and pretty routine.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ANNOUNCER: This is NEW DAY with Chris Cuomo and Alisyn Camerota.

CAMEROTA: Good morning, everyone. Welcome to your new day. President Donald Trump is feeling the weight of the world today. The president now says the chemical attack in Syria "crossed a lot of lines." This, after seeing the images of children choking on gas. What action will the U.S. take?

CUOMO: The same question looms over Trump's biggest world leader meeting yet. In just hours, he's going to sit down with the man he essentially accused of raping the United States, the president of China. Will that tough talk lead to progress on trade with China or with North Korea? How can Trump come away with a much-needed win? A very busy day 77 of the presidency. We have it all covered, beginning with CNN's Joe Johns live at the White House -- Joe.

JOE JOHNS, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: Chris, this really is just a defining moment for President Trump and this administration. As you said, on the campaign trail he railed against China and its trade policies.