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Congress Reaction to Syria Strike; Senator Reacts to Syria Strike; U.S. Strikes after Deadly Chemical Attack; Vehicle Plows into Stockholm Crowd. Aired 9:30-10a

Aired April 7, 2017 - 09:30   ET


[09:30:00] JOHN KIRBY, CNN MILITARY AND DIPLOMATIC ANALYST: Prop up the regime, not Assad necessarily, the regime, to protect their national security interest in Syria. They don't want to see that torn asunder. They don't want to see that torn asunder through radical regime change. So they're there for a very pragmatic, practical reason and they don't want to see that suffer.

POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: OK, gentlemen, thank you very much. Aaron David Miller, retired Rear Admiral John Kirby, Lieutenant Colonel Rick Francona, we appreciate it.

ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: All right, guys, we have breaking news now coming out of Sweden. You're looking at live pictures now from Sweden. Why? There's been some kind of vehicle attack there. A vehicle has been driven into a street full of pedestrian. We're getting that word from a Swedish police spokesman, Lawrence Vilstrum (ph). He said we have a lot of police officers on the scene and the spokesman said we don't have numbers yet. Again, some kind of vehicle driven into a crowd in Stockholm, obviously of great concern there.

HARLOW: And, of course, this follows what we have seen in other countries, in Nice, elsewhere, attacks using vehicles. We is this? We are just getting the details. We will bring you more right after a break.


[09:35:24] BERMAN: All right, this morning, Wall Street reacting to the military action overnight. Also a new job report out just a few minutes ago. One that actually missed its mark.

First, the military action. Crude oil - it sent crude oil prices to the highest level in a month overnight. And, of course, investors want to know how that's going to affect the flow of oil out of that region. Twenty percent of the world's oil passes through the Strait of Hormuz. It is actually down at the bottom of the Red Sea right there.

HARLOW: Yes. Exactly.

Meantime, a pretty disappointing jobs report, as John noted, 98,000 jobs added. That is well below the expectations. They thought more than, you know, twice that almost would be added, 187,000. The unemployment rate slipped to 4.5 percent, though, right around where it's been.

One good note to the jobs report. Wages ticked up 2.7 percent, compared to the same time a year ago.

All right, reaction to the air strikes in Syria pouring in from Capitol Hill.

BERMAN: All right, we are going to go live here - we have some live pictures hopefully. There you go. There's Mitch McConnell on the floor of the Senate. They have a lot of other business to discuss today. Today's a big day in the Senate.


BERMAN: Today is the day that the Senate will confirm Judge Neil Gorsuch to be the next justice to the Supreme Court. That vote will happen probably about two hours from now. An event to an extent that's been overshadowed by the military action overnight to which there has been a great deal of congressional reaction.

CNN congressional correspondent Phil Mattingly on Capitol Hill for us.

Phil, what are you hearing?

PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, it's been largely supportive. And, frankly, it's from both parties. But the White House kind of did, throughout this process, as they handled it in a very traditional matter. More than two dozen lawmakers received phone calls from White House officials or intelligence officials as this attack was launched last night. These officials - it was a bipartisan effort to reach out to lawmakers on both sides. Kind of the relevant lawmakers of leadership, intelligence committees, armed services committees. Make sure everybody was looped in and the result has been that both Republicans and Democrats have been largely supportive of what happened last night.

The question now becomes, what happens next? I think there's a lot of questions about where the legal justification came from. There's no question they believe it was legal. But I think members of Congress want to be briefed on that. And then figure out what the grand strategy is going forward.

I can tell you, some Republicans I've spoken to made very clear, we are very supportive of what happened last night. We have not seen a hint of a comprehensive strategy. That needs to come next.

We also asked Democratic Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, writing to Speaker Paul Ryan, asking for him to bring House lawmakers back to Capitol Hill. Yesterday they left for a two week spring recess. Her request is lawmakers now need to come back and debate an authorization for use of military force. That is really, guys, the other big question here.

The AUMF that has been kind of deciding how - military operations have been run for the better part of the last 15 or 16 years is considered out dated by many people, it's considered extraordinarily flexible by many administrations. There's a lot of talk right now, both Republicans and Democrats, that that needs to be debated. Authorization needs to be considered if there is further military action. But as I said, it's important to note both Republicans and Democrats largely supportive of the proportional response to the chemical attacks that occurred last night, guys.

HARLOW: All right, again, if they do have this vote on the authorization on the use of military force, will they actually be willing to put their names on this one and will they be willing to take a vote on that, like they were not willing to after the last chemical attack?

BERMAN: No, they ducked. They ducked.

HARLOW: Ducked.

BERMAN: I mean they ducked in 2013 for action against Assad.

HARLOW: Completely.

BERMAN: They ducked for action against ISIS in Syria as well. Congress has not wanted to get involved here.

HARLOW: Phil Mattingly on The Hill for us. Our thanks to him.

Still to come here for us, we've obviously got a lot of news we're following, breaking news and talks about how these escalating tensions between the United States and the Syrian regime will impact American men and women in the middle of this fight. We're going to talk to a member of the Armed Services Committee about that next.


[09:43:12] HARLOW: All right, following the U.S. air strikes targeting Bashar al Assad's regime overnight in Syria, we just learned from Senator Mitch McConnell there will be an all senators briefing on this just a little bit later today. Again, an all senators briefing.

Ahead of that, let's talk about this with Mississippi Senator Roger Wicker, a member of the Armed Services Committee.

Thank you very much for being with us this morning on such a crucial day when it comes to U.S. foreign policy going forward.

Just off the bat, do you support the president's actions overnight with these air strikes?

SEN. ROGER WICKER (R), ARMED SERVICES COMMITTEE: I do support the president's action. I think it was called for and the fact that he notified a number of our strongest allies, was advised by a very professional national security team that we have in place, this all gives me a great deal of confidence. I'm supportive of a briefing later on today, and I think that's a great action on the part of the leader. BERMAN: And the White House did brief some members of Congress before

the strike within a very, you know, short window before and after of what was going on, the happened. The question, senator, now is, does the Senate need to vote, perhaps retroactively, to approve of this measure and certainly forward-looking, to authorize any further action? Congress did not vote for a use of force. Did not even, you know, weigh in on an authorization of use of force in 2013 when President Obama was considering action against Bashar al Assad, likewise against ISIS. Do you need to do that this time?

WICKER: OK, to answer your questions, we don't need to act retroactively to somehow endorse this. I think the president acted as commander in chief fully within his constitutional power.

And, yes, 2013 is not a period that makes me proud to look back on. We sort of lost our collective nerve as a country in the face of some very alarming facts out of the Bashar al Assad regime.

[09:45:14] So it heartens me today that - that we have a bipartisan chorus of support for this action. I think it ends the - the week on a good note with the confirmation of Justice Gorsuch later on today and - and a show of resolve that we're going to take measured but firm action against an international war criminal.

HARLOW: So do you believe that any member of Congress who at this point is not willing to make their position clear with a vote on the authorization for the use of military force is shirking their responsibility as a representative of the American people? Meaning, is it incumbent on you guys to take up the vote this time?

WICKER: Well, that's a very provocative question. Let's say - we're going to get a briefing today about what the strategy may be going forward. Based on what we're hearing later on from the administration, and again from the top professionals in our country when it comes to national security, I think we'll then make a decision about, does the level of action called for by this administration require an authorization of the use of military force.

BERMAN: You bring up an interesting point, right, because right now it seems what you're saying is the Senate doesn't know what the administration's strategy will be in Syria going forward, which is understandable because this air strike overnight seemed to be a different type of action than what candidate Trump had called for -


BERMAN: And perhaps even to what Secretary of State Rex Tillerson was saying last week where it wasn't a priority to remove Assad. I mean do you feel like you know, you understand what the administration's policy is?

WICKER: I think without question you've made a very important point. And I would just say that the president - a president, any president, learns things after he gets all the information. The top secret code word briefings on exactly what's going on. And it doesn't surprise me one bit that Donald Trump would change his approach after he sees all the facts on the ground. And I, for one, am supportive, relieved and I wouldn't say delighted, but I'm pleased to see this country show some muscle and resolve and show some action in the face of really repeated action by a war criminal.

HARLOW: Just before we let you go, you voted in January in support of House Resolution 4038 that would suspend Syrian and Iraq refugees from coming to the United States for a limited period of time until the vetting was increased. Given the chemical weapons attack, given the increased aggression by the Assad regime on its own people, are you still supportive of not letting those folks in this country?

WICKER: Well, I'm supportive of vetting and thorough vetting of people that we let in the United States of America. I think there's a place for very many of these victims of Bashar al Assad's hostility towards his own people. There's no question about that. But they do come from a very serious area of the world and I think when people come in from places like that, they deserve to be vetted one by one and for the American people to feel a comfort level that they don't mean us any ill.

HARLOW: But you maintain - but you maintain, senator -

WICKER: I don't have any problem with that at all.

HARLOW: OK, but you maintain that America is not the place for those refugees right now until the vetting changes? Just so we're - have you on the record on that. You still feel that way, right?

WICKER: Well, I - OK, well that - that's one way to put it. What I would really maintain is that when we allow people into this country, it's OK to check them out and see if they mean us ill or if they're - if they are genuinely refugees that deserve the protection of the United States.


BERMAN: All right.

WICKER: That's a reasonable question. Do they mean us harm or do they come in a benign way?


BERMAN: Senator Roger Wicker of Mississippi, great to have you with us. Thanks so much, sir.

WICKER: Thank you.

BERMAN: We'll be right back.


[09:54:12] HARLOW: All right, overnight, 59 tomahawk cruise missiles targeted the Al Shayrat Air Base in Syria.

BERMAN: This is the air base that is being blamed for launching last week's chemical attack that killed 80 Syrian civilians.

Want to get a better sense of this target. What was the target for these 59 cruise missiles? We're joined by CNN Washington correspondent Tom Foreman.

Tom, what can you tell us?

TOM FOREMAN, CNN WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: What we're really looking at here are the targets within the target, because when you go after an airfield like this, you're not trying to destroy everything. You're starting with the command and control, which means they want to hit things like - any place that might be involved in the actual communications or the radar operations or the tower of this airfield. There's no real indication here that they were trying to wipe out the runway here. There did seem to be some damage to what seems to be the taxiway over here.

[09:55:00] But, beyond that, one of the targets was very clearly to hit these fortified bunkers out here. I can't call them bunkers. They're fortified hangars for aircraft out here. And you can pretty easily move around here and see that there are at least 15 of these spread around this facility. We counted them off earlier, and I'm not sure if I'll hit them all right now.

But these bunkers are where they keep aircraft, for example, the migs, which mainly are a mainstay of their air force here. If you look at those bunkers and you move in a little bit tighter on one of these images, you can see them a little bit better here. They're also trying to hit anything like fuel depots, things that may be able to help them run here.

The question is, how much damage was actually done? If you move in and look at this video, that's one of those air - those hangars we're talking about. It's fortified so planes can park up inside there and be safe, to some degree, from an attack like this. And if you look at this video that we've seen so far, which, again, we didn't shoot, so we don't know how selective it is, yes, you see some damage, but you also see places where there doesn't seem to be much damage. Big mystery as to how much actual damage was done and why the Russians did not deploy a defense system that they moved in last fall to try to stop such things.

HARLOW: That's a very important question. They did not use the S-400 surface-to-air missiles that they could have used to intercept. Tom Foreman, thank you for bringing it all to us there. We appreciate it.

We have some big, breaking news right now out of Stockholm, Sweden. Let's go straight to our Phil Black, who joins us with more.

What are we learning?

PHIL BLACK, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: So, Poppy, what we're learning is that in central Stockholm, in a heavily - a busy pedestrianized street, a vehicle of some kind has run through that street, knocking people down. That's essentially it. We are at the very earlies stages of

understanding precisely what has happened here. Police say they are on the scene. They're investigating. People have been hurt. We don't know how many or how badly.

But again, we are looking at the possibility of a vehicle being used to knock down people in a crowded, busy area in a major European city. That's why we're talking about this because although we don't know precisely who was driving or what their motivation was, it fits a profile that we've seen too much of over the last year or so. We saw it in London just a few weeks ago where five people were killed in an attack involving a vehicle near London's parliament. Last year, in Nice, more than 80 people were killed when a truck drove through a very dense crowd.

What we're looking here today is perhaps something similar to that, a vehicle, through a crowd, in central Stockholm. Police are working to determine just why and how this happened.

Back to you.

BERMAN: So, Phil, we've been monitoring Swedish public radio, and, again, right now they're saying at least two people dead in this attack. And also a government spokesperson says that parliament and the Stockholm subway are currently in lockdown. Again, that's from a security police spokesman that we just heard when we were monitoring public radio there. So these developments continue to come in.

Our Phil Black monitoring the situation for us. Thanks so much.

HARLOW: All right, obviously we're keeping a very close eye on this breaking news out of Sweden.

Also, in just minutes, President Trump is sitting down once again with China's President Xi Jinping for what has become an increasingly important meeting in the wake of those air strikes on Syria overnight. We're going to have that all straight ahead. Stay with us for the breaking news.